Proteomic Analysis of Sera from Individuals with Diffuse Cutaneous Systemic Sclerosis Reveals a Multianalyte Signature Associated with Clinical Improvement during Imatinib Mesylate Treatment

J Rheumatol. 2017 May;44(5):631-638. doi: 10.3899/jrheum.160833. Epub 2017 Mar 15.


Objective: Imatinib has been investigated for the treatment of systemic sclerosis (SSc) because of its ability to inhibit the platelet-derived growth factor receptor and transforming growth factor-β signaling pathways, which have been implicated in SSc pathogenesis. In a 12-month open-label clinical trial assessing the safety and efficacy of imatinib in the treatment of diffuse cutaneous SSc (dcSSc), significant improvements in skin thickening were observed. Here, we report our analysis of sera collected during the clinical trial.

Methods: We measured the levels of 46 cytokines, chemokines, and growth factors in the sera of individuals with dcSSc using Luminex and ELISA. Autoantigen microarrays were used to measure immunoglobulin G reactivity to 28 autoantigens. Elastic net regularization was used to identify a signature that was predictive of clinical improvement (reduction in the modified Rodnan skin score ≥ 5) during treatment with imatinib. The signature was also tested using sera from a clinical trial of nilotinib, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor that is structurally related to imatinib, in dcSSc.

Results: The elastic net algorithm identified a signature, based on levels of CD40 ligand, chemokine (C-X-C motif) ligand 4 (CXCL4), and anti-PM/Scl-100, that was significantly higher in individuals who experienced clinical improvement than in those who did not (p = 0.0011). The signature was validated using samples from a clinical trial of nilotinib.

Conclusion: Identification of patients with SSc with the greatest probability of benefit from treatment with imatinib has the potential to guide individualized treatment. Validation of the signature will require testing in randomized, placebo-controlled studies. NCT00555581 and NCT01166139.


Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chemokines / blood*
  • Cytokines / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imatinib Mesylate / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Proteomics
  • Scleroderma, Diffuse / blood*
  • Scleroderma, Diffuse / drug therapy
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Chemokines
  • Cytokines
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Imatinib Mesylate

Associated data