Corticosteroid refractory graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is one of the major challenges in the management of allogeneic stem cell transplant recipients. Although numerous agents have been employed to treat this patient population, no standardized second-line therapy exists. In this study, we report our experience with the administration of tocilizumab, an anti-interleukin 6 receptor antibody, in the treatment of steroid refractory GVHD. Tocilizumab was administered to 8 patients with refractory acute (n = 6) or chronic GVHD (cGVHD) (n = 2) once every 3 to 4 weeks. The majority of patients with acute GVHD (aGVHD) had grade IV organ involvement of the skin or gastrointestinal tract, whereas both patients with cGVHD had long-standing severe skin sclerosis at the time of treatment. There were no allergic or infusion-related adverse events. Treatment was discontinued in one patient over concerns that tocilizumab may have worsened preexisting hyperbilirubinemia. Several patients also had transient elevations in serum transaminase values. Infections were the primary adverse events associated with tocilizumab administration. Four patients (67%) with aGVHD had either partial or complete responses apparent within the first 56 days of therapy. One patient with cGVHD had a significant response to therapy, whereas the second had stabilization of disease that allowed for a modest reduction in immune suppressive medications. These results indicate that tocilizumab has activity in the treatment of steroid refractory GVHD and warrants further investigation as a therapeutic option for this disorder.
Epidural steroid injections are commonly prescribed for patients with a disc injury or spinal arthritis causing nerve irritation, and generally consist of local anesthetic (numbing medication such as lidocaine) and cortisone (a steroid that reduces inflammation and pain). Lidocaine is often injected initially so patients experience minimal, if any, pain during the procedure. The injection may be performed by placing the needle posteriorly between the spine bones (Translaminar or interlaminar) and injecting the medicine into the space around the spinal nerves. A transforaminal ESI means the injection is placed slightly to one side of the spine, and the medicine is injected near the ruptured disc and inflamed spinal nerve. A caudal ESI is performed by placing the needle near the tailbone, and injecting the medicine into the region of the sacral nerves and lower lumbar spinal nerves. Epidural steroid injections, as well as most spinal injections, are performed using a special x-ray guidance system called fluoroscopy. This allows the doctor to immediately see an x-ray image on a television screen and inject the medicine precisely into the right spot. The procedure time is often less than 10-15 minutes.
An excessive level of corticosteroids may cause Cushing's disease. When a pet is on long-term, high doses of glucocorticoids, there is an increased risk that it will develop a condition called iatrogenic (medication induced) Cushing's disease. The clinical signs of Cushing's disease include increased thirst and urination, an increase in UTI's and skin and ear infections, a "pot-bellied" appearance, thinning skin and hair loss. In the treatment of some diseases, the risk of iatrogenic Cushing's disease is unavoidable. To minimize this risk, corticosteroid doses are tapered down over time, or several different drugs may be used in combination.