Research Summary: Infliximab Induces Clonal Expansion of γδ-T Cells in Crohn’s Disease: A Predictor of Lymphoma Risk?



Concominant with the widespread use of combined immunotherapy in the management of Crohn’s disease (CD), the incidence of hepato-splenic gamma-delta (γδ)-T cell lymphoma has increased sharply in CD patients. Malignant transformation of lymphocytes is believed to be a multistep process resulting in the selection of malignant γδ-T cell clones. We hypothesised that repeated infusion of anti-TNF-α agents may induce clonal selection and that concurrent treatment with immunomodulators further predisposes patients to γδ-T cell expansion.

Methodology/Principal Findings

We investigated dynamic changes in the γδ-T cells of patient with CD following treatment with infliximab (Remicade®; n = 20) or adalimumab (Humira®; n = 26) using flow cytometry. In patients with a high γδ-T cell level, the γδ-T cells were assessed for clonality. Of these 46 CD patients, 35 had a γδ-T cells level (mean 1.6%) comparable to healthy individuals (mean 2.2%), and 11 CD patients (24%) exhibited an increased level of γδ-T cells (5–15%). In the 18 patients also receiving thiopurines or methotrexate, the average baseline γδ-T cell level was 4.4%. In three male CD patients with a high baseline value, the γδ-T cell population increased dramatically following infliximab therapy. A fourth male patient also on infliximab monotherapy presented with 20% γδ-T cells, which increased to 25% shortly after treatment and was 36% between infusions. Clonality studies revealed an oligoclonal γδ-T cell pattern with dominant γδ-T cell clones. In support of our clinical findings, in vitro experiments showed a dose-dependent proliferative effect of anti-TNF-α agents on γδ-T cells.


CD patients treated with immunomodulators had constitutively high levels of γδ-T cells. Infliximab exacerbated clonal γδ-T cell expansion in vivo and induced γδ-T cell proliferation in vitro. Overall, young, male CD patients with high baseline γδ-T cell levels may be at an increased risk of developing malignant γδ-T cell lymphomas following treatment with anti-TNF-α agents.


Publisher: Public Library of Science

Date Published: 31-March-2011

Author(s): Kelsen J., Dige A., Schwindt H., D’Amore F., Pedersen F., Agnholt J., Christensen L., Dahlerup J., Hvas C.


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