Objective: We sought to determine the effect of hydroxychloroquine therapy on the levels proinflammatory/prothrombotic markers and disease activity scores in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in a multiethnic, multi-center cohort (LUMINA).
Methods: Plasma/serum samples from SLE patients (n = 35) were evaluated at baseline and after hydroxychloroquine treatment. Disease activity was assessed using SLAM-R scores. Interferon (IFN)-α2, interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, IL-8, inducible protein (IP)-10, monocyte chemotactic protein-1, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and soluble CD40 ligand (sCD40L) levels were determined by a multiplex immunoassay. Anticardiolipin antibodies were evaluated using ELISA assays. Thirty-two frequency-matched plasma/serum samples from healthy donors were used as controls.
Results: Levels of IL-6, IP-10, sCD40L, IFN-α and TNF-α were significantly elevated in SLE patients versus controls. There was a positive but moderate correlation between SLAM-R scores at baseline and levels of IFN-α (p = 0.0546). Hydroxychloroquine therapy resulted in a significant decrease in SLAM-R scores (p = 0.0157), and the decrease in SLAM-R after hydroxychloroquine therapy strongly correlated with decreases in IFN-α (p = 0.0087).
Conclusions: Hydroxychloroquine therapy resulted in significant clinical improvement in SLE patients, which strongly correlated with reductions in IFN-α levels. This indicates an important role for the inhibition of endogenous TLR activation in the action of hydroxychloroquine in SLE and provides additional evidence for the importance of type I interferons in the pathogenesis of SLE. This study underscores the use of hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of SLE.