Soluble interleukin-2 receptor is a sensitive diagnostic test in adult HLH

Blood Adv. 2017 Dec 6;1(26):2529-2534. doi: 10.1182/bloodadvances.2017012310. eCollection 2017 Dec 12.


Serum soluble interleukin-2 receptor (sIL-2r) is an important disease marker in hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), but there are no published data on its diagnostic value in adults. We conducted a single-center retrospective study of 78 consecutive adults who had sIL-2r measured for suspected HLH. Serum sIL-2r levels were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (adult reference range, 241-846 U/mL). There were 38 patients with HLH and 40 with a non-HLH diagnosis (such as sepsis, liver disease, histiocyte disorders, autoimmune disease, leukemia, or lymphoma). The receiver operating characteristic curve demonstrated that sIL-2r is a good to excellent diagnostic test for adult HLH, with an area under the curve (AUC) of 0.90 (95% confidence interval, 0.83-0.97) compared with AUC 0.78 (95% confidence interval, 0.67-0.88) for ferritin. The optimal threshold for sIL-2r was 2515 U/mL (sensitivity, 100%; specificity, 72.5%). Although there was a large indeterminate range for sIL-2r, a level of 2400 U/mL or less was helpful for ruling out HLH (sensitivity, 100%), and more than 10 000 U/mL was helpful for ruling in HLH (specificity, 93%). Higher mean sIL-2r levels were seen in malignancy-associated HLH (20 241 U/mL) compared with infection-associated HLH and macrophage activation syndrome (9720 and 5008 U/mL, respectively; P < .05). Levels above 10 000 U/mL were not associated with worse prognosis in patients with HLH. Serum sIL-2r is a sensitive test for diagnosis of adult HLH, but is not as specific as previously reported in children. Additional studies enriched with patients without HLH who have conditions associated with T-cell activation, such as lymphoma and autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome, are needed.