Targeting Tumor Necrosis Factor-α in the Therapy of Psoriasis
Tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) plays a fundamental role in the initiation and persistence of skin inflammation in psoriasis. The best evidence of the essential activity of this cytokine in the pathogenesis of psoriasis came from the observation that selective TNF-α blockers are dramatically effective in the therapy of this disease. The TNF-α inhibitors, infliximab and etanercept, have been employed with success in moderate to severe psoriasis and in psoriatic arthritis in randomized controlled trials. Anti-TNF-α biologicals induce rapid disease resolution and long-lasting remission, suggesting that they may alter the natural course of the disease. Further studies are warranted to more precisely establish the biological bases of the action of anti-TNF-α agents, better define which subgroup of patients can benefit most from this treatment, and the modalities of combination therapy with other antipsoriatic agents. Many other TNF-α inhibitors have been developed but none of them has been yet used in the therapy of psoriasis. Major limitations to the use of selective TNF-α blockers include the reactivation of latent tuberculosis, the risk of opportunistic infections, the development of specific antibodies, which is associated with a reduced duration of response to treatment, and the high cost.
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