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Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases
Volume 6, Issue 1, Pages 30-33

Therapeutic Potential for Cytokine Antagonists: Thalidomide and Pentoxifylline in Hansen’s Disease

Theresa C Peterson

Departments of Medicine and Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Received 21 December 1993; Accepted 13 May 1994

Copyright © 1995 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Cytokine antagonists are a group of drugs defined by their actions on specific cytokines. Cytokine antagonists can inhibit action of cytokines by acting directly on receptors, by affecting production of cytokines or by binding to cytokines and preventing their subsequent action. Recent evidence suggests that Hansen’s disease, which is characterized by reactional states, is associated with elevated serum levels of tumour necrosis factor-α (tnf-α) and interleukin-1β during these reactional states. Thalidomide, a drug used to treat reactional states in Hansen’s disease, has been reported to enhance degradation of tnf-α mrna. Pentoxifylline has also been reported to alter tnf-α mrna levels by inhibiting tnf-a transcription. Combination of these two drugs as cytokine antagonists may prove to be beneficial as therapeutic agents in the treatment of reactional states in Hansen’s disease. Pentoxifylline may prove to be beneficial in the treatment of reactional states in Hansen’s disease patients who are female and of childbearing age. Cytokine antagonists alone or in combination will likely fill a niche in future therapeutics.