Journal of Translational Medicine: “Unleashing Endogenous TNF-alpha as a cancer immunotherapeutic”

Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha was originally identified in the 1970s as the serum mediator of innate immunity capable of inducing hemorrhagic necrosis in tumors. Today, a wide spectrum of biological activities have been attributed to this molecule, and clinical translation has mainly occurred not in using it to treat cancer, but rather to inhibit its effects to treat autoimmunity. Clinical trials utilizing systemic TNF-alpha administration have resulted in an unacceptable level of toxicities, which blocked its development. In contrast, localized administration of TNF-alpha in the form of isolated limb perfusion have yielded excellent results in soft tissue sarcomas. Here we describe a novel approach to leveraging the potent antineoplastic activities of TNF-alpha by enhancing activity of locally produced TNF-alpha through extracorporeal removal of soluble TNF-alpha receptors. Specifically, it is known that cancerous tissues are infiltrated with monocytes, T cells, and other cells capable of producing TNF-alpha. It is also known that tumors, as well as cells in the tumor microenvironment produce soluble TNF-alpha receptors. The authors believe that by selectively removing soluble TNF-alpha receptors local enhancement of endogenous TNF-alpha activity may provide for enhanced tumor cell death without associated systemic toxicities.