Purpose: To evaluate interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels in the conjunctival epithelium of patients with moderate to severe dry eye disease before and after treatment with cyclosporin A ophthalmic emulsion (CsA) or its vehicle.
Methods: Conjunctival cytology specimens were obtained from a subset of patients enrolled in a 6-month randomized, double-masked clinical trial of the efficacy and safety of topical CsA at baseline and after 3 and 6 months of B.I.D. treatment with 0.05% cyclosporine emulsion (n = 13), 0.1% cyclosporine emulsion (n = 8), or vehicle (n = 10). RNA was extracted and a competitive reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was used to evaluate the levels of mRNA encoding the inflammatory cytokine IL-6 and a housekeeping gene, G3PDH. Levels of IL-6 and G3PDH were measured and compared.
Results: There was no change from baseline in the level of G3PDH after 3 or 6 months in any group. IL-6 normalized for G3PDH (IL-6/G3PDH ratio) was not different from baseline at 3 months but showed a significant decrease from baseline in the group treated with 0.05% CsA (p = 0.048) at 6 months. No significant between-group differences were noted and no correlation was observed between the change in IL-6/G3PDH and corneal fluorescein staining.
Conclusions: This preliminary, small-cohort study showed a decrease in IL-6 in the conjunctival epithelium of moderate to severe dry eye patients treated with 0.05% CsA for 6 months. The observed decrease suggests that dry eye disease involves immune-mediated inflammatory processes that may be decreased by treatment with topical ophthalmic cyclosporine.