Journal Article

Blood Cytokines as Biomarkers of <i>In Vivo</i> Toxicity in Preclinical Safety Assessment: Considerations for Their Use

Jacqueline M. Tarrant

in Toxicological Sciences

Volume 117, issue 1, pages 4-16
Published in print September 2010 | ISSN: 1096-6080
Published online May 2010 | e-ISSN: 1096-0929 | DOI:

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  • Medical Toxicology
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In the drive to develop drugs with well-characterized and clinically monitorable safety profiles, there is incentive to expand the repertoire of safety biomarkers for toxicities without routine markers or premonitory detection. Biomarkers in blood are pursued because of specimen accessibility, opportunity for serial monitoring, quantitative measurement, and the availability of assay platforms. Cytokines, chemokines, and growth factors (here referred to collectively as cytokines) show robust modulation in proximal events of inflammation, immune response, and repair. These are key general processes in many toxicities; therefore, cytokines are commonly identified during biomarker discovery studies. In addition, multiplexed cytokine immunoassays are easily applied to biomarker discovery and routine toxicity studies to measure blood cytokines. However, cytokines pose several challenges as safety biomarkers because of a short serum half-life; low to undetectable baseline levels; lack of tissue-specific or toxicity-specific expression; complexities related to cytokine expression with multiorgan involvement; and species, strain, and interindividual differences. Additional challenges to their application are caused by analytical, methodological, and study design–related variables. A final consideration is the strength of the relationship between changes in cytokine levels and the development of phenotypic or functional manifestations of toxicity. These factors should inform the integrated judgment-based qualification of novel biomarkers in preclinical, and potentially clinical, risk assessment. The dearth of robust, predictive cytokine biomarkers for specific toxicities is an indication of the significant complexity of these challenges. This review will consider the current state of the science and recommendations for appropriate application of cytokines in preclinical safety assessment.

Keywords: cytokines; toxicity; safety; risk assessment; biomarker; qualification; validation; multiplex immunoassay

Journal Article.  10075 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medical Toxicology ; Toxicology (Non-medical)

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