Pirfenidone increases IL-10 and improves acute pancreatitis in multiple clinically relevant murine models

JCI Insight. 2022 Jan 25;7(2):e141108. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.141108.


Despite decades of research, there is no specific therapy for acute pancreatitis (AP). In the current study, we have evaluated the efficacy of pirfenidone, an antiinflammatory and antifibrotic agent that is approved by the FDA for treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), in ameliorating local and systemic injury in AP. Our results suggest that treatment with pirfenidone in therapeutic settings (e.g., after initiation of injury), even when administered at the peak of injury, reduces severity of local and systemic injury and inflammation in multiple models of AP. In vitro evaluation suggests that pirfenidone decreases cytokine release from acini and macrophages and disrupts acinar-macrophage crosstalk. Therapeutic pirfenidone treatment increases IL-10 secretion from macrophages preceding changes in histology and modulates the immune phenotype of inflammatory cells with decreased levels of inflammatory cytokines. Antibody-mediated IL-10 depletion, use of IL-10-KO mice, and macrophage depletion experiments confirmed the role of IL-10 and macrophages in its mechanism of action, as pirfenidone was unable to reduce severity of AP in these scenarios. Since pirfenidone is FDA approved for IPF, a trial evaluating the efficacy of pirfenidone in patients with moderate to severe AP can be initiated expeditiously.

Keywords: Chemokines; Cytokines; Gastroenterology; Inflammation; Macrophages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acinar Cells / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / pharmacology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / classification
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fibrosis* / etiology
  • Fibrosis* / prevention & control
  • Interleukin-10 / immunology*
  • Macrophages / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Pancreas* / drug effects
  • Pancreas* / immunology
  • Pancreas* / injuries
  • Pancreas* / pathology
  • Pancreatitis* / drug therapy
  • Pancreatitis* / immunology
  • Paracrine Communication / immunology
  • Pyridones / pharmacology*
  • Signal Transduction / immunology


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Cytokines
  • IL10 protein, mouse
  • Pyridones
  • Interleukin-10
  • pirfenidone