Tumor necrosis factor (TNF), a protein predominantly produced by activated macrophages/monocytes, is presently available in recombinant, purified form for clinical trials. Intensive studies in many laboratories have shown that besides the tumorcytotoxic effects, TNF acts on a large array of different cells and has potent immunomodulatory activities. In a clinical phase I study, some immunologic functional parameters of blood cells from patients who received 24-hour infusions of recombinant human TNF (rhTNF) were analyzed. Natural killer (NK) cell activity, TNF production, interleukin-1 (IL-1) production and mitogen-induced proliferation were measured either in whole blood samples or in cultures of peripheral mononuclear leukocytes of the patients directly before and after rhTNF infusion. NK cell activity, TNF and IL-1 production capacity and proliferative responses to concanavalin A (Con A) were significantly reduced after rhTNF application. We conclude from these observations that rhTNF in vivo acts directly or indirectly on NK cells and monocytes by either inactivating their functional capacity or by absorbing the relevant cells to the endothelial cell layer, thus removing them from circulation.

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