Tumour necrosis factor in sarcoidosis and its potential for targeted therapy

BioDrugs. 2003;17(6):425-31. doi: 10.2165/00063030-200317060-00005.


Tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha is a potent cytokine involved in the inflammatory reactions of many acute and chronic diseases. Recently, agents that block TNFalpha either directly or indirectly have been successful in the treatment of a variety of immune-mediated inflammatory disorders including rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease. Sarcoidosis is an immune-mediated inflammatory disorder characterised by the formation of granulomas. TNFalpha is important in the initiation and perpetuation of inflammation in sarcoidosis, contributing to the initiation of granulomas and the progression of fibrosis, as well as to nongranulomatous inflammation. Various agents used to treat sarcoidosis affect TNF, including the most widely used drug class, corticosteroids, which are usually effective in blocking TNFalpha release from cells. Other agents that nonspecifically inhibit TNFalpha release include methotrexate, azathioprine and pentoxifylline. Specific TNF-antagonising biological agents such as infliximab and etanercept are being tested in patients with sarcoidosis, with mixed success. Infliximab has been shown to produce clinical improvement and reduce the requirement for corticosteroids in a small number of patients with sarcoidosis. However, as infliximab can be associated with reactivation of tuberculosis, which could be mistaken as worsening sarcoidosis, it should be used with caution in this patient group.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Etanercept
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / therapeutic use
  • Infliximab
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor / therapeutic use
  • Sarcoidosis / drug therapy*
  • Sarcoidosis / immunology*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / immunology


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Infliximab
  • Etanercept