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Increased TNF-alpha and sTNFR2 levels are associated with high-grade anal squamous intraepithelial lesions in HIV-positive patients with low CD4 level.


Compared with HIV-negative individuals, HIV-positive individuals have a higher prevalence of anogenital human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, the causative agent of anogenital cancer. TNF-alpha is a major proinflammatory cytokine. sTNFR2 is the soluble form of one of its receptors and is strongly expressed on stimulated lymphocytes. To further understand the role of TNF-alpha, sTNFR2 and other cytokines in the pathogenesis in HPV-related neoplasia, the profiles of serum cytokines in high-risk patients were analyzed for association with anal lesion status. Patients were categorized into 4 groups based on HIV status (HIV-negative vs. HIV-positive with a CD4+ level <200/uL) and anal lesion status [no lesion, low-grade anal squamous intraepithelial lesion (LSIL) vs. high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (HSIL)] based on high resolution anoscopy-guided biopsy. Following adjustment for multiplicity, HIV-negative men with HSIL had lower levels of sTNFR2 than HIV-positive men with low CD4 level and HSIL (p=0.02). HIV-positive men with HSIL had higher levels of TNF-alpha than HIV-negative men with HSIL (p<0.001), as well as HIV-positive men with no lesion or LSIL (p=0.03). The levels of other factors, including IL-1beta, IL-2, IL-4, IL-8, IFN-gamma, GM-CSF, sTNFR1 and DR5, were not significantly different between groups. Although the sample size was small, these results suggest that systemic activation of TNF-alpha/sTNFR2 in HIV-positive patients with a low CD4 level may promote the development of HSIL and possibly anal cancer.

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