After TGN1412: recent developments in cytokine release assays

J Immunotoxicol. Jan-Mar 2013;10(1):75-82. doi: 10.3109/1547691X.2012.711783. Epub 2012 Sep 11.


The failure of regulatory science to keep pace with and support the development of new biological medicines was very publically highlighted in March 2006 when the first-in-man Phase I clinical trial of the immunomodulatory CD28-specific monoclonal antibody (mAb) TGN1412 ended in disaster when all six volunteers suffered a life-threatening adverse reaction termed a 'Cytokine Storm'. The poor predictive value of standard pre-clinical safety tests and animal models applied to TGN1412 demonstrated the need for a new generation of immunotoxicity assays and animal models that are both sensitive and predictive of clinical outcome in man. The non-predictive result obtained from pre-clinical safety testing in cynomolgus macaques has now been attributed to a lack of CD28 expression on CD4+ effector memory T-cells that therefore cannot be stimulated by TGN1412. In contrast, high levels of CD28 are expressed on human CD4+ effector memory T-cells, the source of most TGN1412-stimulated pro-inflammatory cytokines. Standard in vitro safety tests with human cells were also non-predictive as they did not replicate in vivo presentation of TGN1412. It was subsequently shown that, if an immobilized therapeutic mAb-based assay or endothelial cell co-culture assay was used to evaluate TGN1412, then these would have predicted a pro-inflammatory response in man. New in vitro assays based on these approaches are now being applied to emerging therapeutics to hopefully prevent a repeat of the TGN1412 incident. It has emerged that the mechanism of pro-inflammatory cytokine release stimulated by TGN1412 is different to that of other therapeutic mAbs, such that standard pro-inflammatory markers such as TNFα and IL-8 are not discriminatory. Rather, IL-2 release and lymphoproliferation are optimal readouts of a TGN1412-like pro-inflammatory response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Immobilized
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / adverse effects*
  • CD28 Antigens / immunology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Clinical Trials, Phase I as Topic
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Cytotoxicity Tests, Immunologic*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Endothelial Cells
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Memory / drug effects
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Interleukin-2 / immunology*
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Treatment Failure


  • Antibodies, Immobilized
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • CD28 Antigens
  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-2
  • TGN-1412