Shared inflammatory pathways and therapeutic strategies in COVID-19 and cancer immunotherapy

Lorenzo Iovino, Laurel A. Thur, Sacha Gnjatic, Aude Chapuis, Filippo Milano, Joshua A. Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


COVID-19, the syndrome caused by the infection with SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, is characterized, in its severe form, by interstitial diffuse pneumonitis and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). ARDS and systemic manifestations of COVID-19 are mainly due to an exaggerated immune response triggered by the viral infection. Cytokine release syndrome (CRS), an inflammatory syndrome characterized by elevated levels of circulating cytokines, and endothelial dysfunction are systemic manifestations of COVID-19. CRS is also an adverse event of immunotherapy (IMTX), the treatment of diseases using drugs, cells, and antibodies to stimulate or suppress the immune system. Graft-versus-host disease complications after an allogeneic stem cell transplant, toxicity after the infusion of chimeric antigen receptor-T cell therapy and monoclonal antibodies can all lead to CRS. It is hypothesized that anti-inflammatory drugs used for treatment of CRS in IMTX may be useful in reducing the mortality in COVID-19, whereas IMTX itself may help in ameliorating effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection. In this paper, we focused on the potential shared mechanisms and differences between COVID-19 and IMTX-related toxicities. We performed a systematic review of the clinical trials testing anti-inflammatory therapies and of the data published from prospective trials. Preliminary evidence suggests there might be a benefit in targeting the cytokines involved in the pathogenesis of COVID-19, especially by inhibiting the interleukin-6 pathway. Many other approaches based on novel drugs and cell therapies are currently under investigation and may lead to a reduction in hospitalization and mortality due to COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere002392
JournalJournal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer
Issue number5
StatePublished - 13 May 2021


  • COVID-19
  • immunotherapy
  • inflammation mediators


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