Skip main navigation

Sudden Death in a Patient Without Heart Failure After a Single Infusion of 200 mg Infliximab: Does TNF-α Have Protective Effects on the Failing Heart, or Does Infliximab Have Direct Harmful Cardiovascular Effects?

Originally publishedhttps://doi.org/10.1161/01.CIR.0000017216.41471.DFCirculation. 2002;105:e183

    To the Editor:

    A phase II study to assess the side effects of Remicade (infliximab) in patients with cardiac insufficiency NYHA III-IV revealed 7 deaths due to worsening of cardiac insufficiency among 150 patients who had received 3 infusions of Remicade of either 5 mg/kg or 10 mg/kg. The pharmaceutical company warned doctors not to give Remicade to patients with heart insufficiency of the class NYHA III-IV.

    Case Report

    We report a case of sudden death 18 hours after a single infusion of Remicade in a patient without heart insufficiency. The patient, a 64-year-old man with classical rheumatoid arthritis refractory to antiinflammatory and immunosuppressive treatment (he had received hydroxychloroquine, methotrexate, leflunomide, deflazacort, oral corticosteroids, and AINS) accepted to try infliximab, a monoclonal antibody inhibiting the biological activity of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α). The patient complained of pain in the joints and shoulders, morning stiffness, fatigue, and depression. He had a bicameral pacemaker implanted in 1994 for bradycardia but had neither anamnestic clues nor clinical symptoms or signs of heart insufficiency and/or angina pectoris. The ECG was morphologically normal with sinus rhythm and frequent intervention of the pacemaker. The C reactive protein was 200 mg/L, sedimentation rate 90 mm/h, and interleukin (IL)-8 152.1 pg/mL. TNF-α before infusion was normal (2.41 pg/mL N<6.3). The infusion of Remicade (dosage: 3.17 mg/kg in 250 mL NaCl 0.9%) was started at 10:00 am and ended at 1:00 pm. During the evening after the infusion, the patient felt very well; for the first time since the beginning of his disease, he was free of pain. Thus, he wanted to go home on the same evening and celebrate the “miracle.” All vital signs and parameters were normal. The night nurse attendant spoke with the patient at 6:30 am of the following morning, and he told her that he had slept very well. At 7:25 am, he was found dead, lying on his right side, without any signs of abnormal movements, loss of urine, foam at the mouth or nostrils, or discoloration of the skin. There was still no rigor mortis and the skin temperature was diminished but warm indicating that the death had occurred between 6:30 am and 7:00 am. The autopsy excluded an organic cause of death (no myocardial infarction, no heart insufficiency, no pulmonary or cerebral edema, no rupture of an aneurysm, no pulmonary embolism, and no internal bleeding).

    Discussion

    The mechanism of aggravation of preexisting heart failure and death after Remicade infusions is unknown. Because TNF-α is increased in the serum, circulating monocytes, tissue macrophages, and myocardiocytes in patients with chronic heart failure (together with other parameters of ventricular failure and/or low cardiac output), it has logically been implicated in the pathophysiology of congestive heart failure. TNF-α is known to be the cause of cardiac cachexia. Transgenic mice with overexpression of TNF-α develop myocardial inflammation, cardiac hypertrophy, and dilated cardiomyopathy.1 In sepsis, TNF-α is believed to stimulate oxidative stress in the failing heart.2 The acute hemodynamic effects of TNF-α are as follows: reduction in cardiac output, dP/dt, blood pressure, and mean circulatory filling pressure.3 Although these effects are deemed negative, no correlation was found between TNF-α, its soluble receptors, and left ventricular end diastolic volume and ejection fraction, or pulmonary wedge pressure.4

    In contradiction to the paradigm of TNF-α being harmful, other studies reveal that TNF-α has a protective negative inotropic action on the failing heart and stimulates the production of heat shock proteins, which enable cells to survive transient stresses, such as ischemia.5 Injection of TNF-α improves survival of TNF-α−/− knockout mice infected with encephalomyocarditis virus in a dose-dependent manner by increasing viral clearance.6 It induces protein synthesis in cardiac myocytes through activation of the P13-kinase-Akt/PKB pathway7 and promotes remodeling at the border of infarcted myocardial tissues.8 It induces inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) in macrophages but not in myocytes. Chronic TNF-α exposure in congestive heart failure results in translocation of transcriptionally inactive p50 homodimers, which constitute an adaptive response to minimize the inflammatory consequences of TNF-α exposure.9 Anti–TNF-α treatment reduces TNF-α and IL-1β but not MCP-1 and IL-6.10 Unopposed or overexpressed IL-6 promotes cardiac injury by interrupting both the cytokine autoregulatory network and the viral clearance in the viral myocarditis model.11

    The 7 cases of death in patients with chronic heart failure and our 8th case of sudden death in a patient without heart failure should moderate the enthusiasm of those who promote anti–TNF-α treatment for congestive heart failure until the balance between harmful and protective effects of TNF-α on the failing heart are fully elucidated.

    Whatever the issue, the 10 mg/kg dose of infliximab has the probability of being harmful in patients with class III-IV heart failure and should be avoided for now.

    References

    • 1 Wada H, Saito K, Kanda T, et al. Tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) plays a protective role in cute viral myocarditis in mice: A study using mice lacking TNF-α. Circulation. 2001; 103: 626–629.CrossrefMedlineGoogle Scholar
    • 2 Tsutamoto T, Wada A, Matsumoto T, et al. Relationship between tumor necrosis factor-α production and oxidative stress in the failing heart of patients with dilated cardiomyopathy. J. Am Coll Cardiol. 2001; 37: 2086–2092.CrossrefMedlineGoogle Scholar
    • 3 Tabrizchi R. The influence of tumour necrosis factor-α on the cardiovascular system of anaesthetized rats. Nauny Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol. 2001; 363: 307–321.CrossrefMedlineGoogle Scholar
    • 4 Petretta M, Condorelli GL, Spinelli L, et al. Circulating levels of cytokines and their site of production in patients with mild to severe chronic heart failure. Am Heart J. 2000; 140: E28. Abstract.MedlineGoogle Scholar
    • 5 Mandi Y, Hogye M, Talha, et al. Cytokine production and antibodies against heat shock protein 60 in cardiomyopathies of different origins. Pathobiology. 2000; 68: 150–158.CrossrefMedlineGoogle Scholar
    • 6 Hiraoka E, Kawashima S, Takahashi T, et al. TNF-α induces protein synthesis through PI3-kinase-Akt/PKB pathway in cardiac myocytes. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2001; 280: 1861–1868.CrossrefGoogle Scholar
    • 7 Heba G, Krzeminski T, Porc M, et al. The time course of tumor necrosis factor-α, inducible nitric oxide synthase and vascular endothelial growth factor expression in an experimental model of chronic myocardial infarction in rats. J Vasc Res. 2001; 38: 288–300.CrossrefMedlineGoogle Scholar
    • 8 Sanders DB, Larson DF, Hunter K, et al. Comparison of tumor necrosis factor-α effect on the expression of iNOS in macrophages and cardiac myocytes. Perfusion. 2001; 16: 67–74.Google Scholar
    • 9 Haudek SB, Bryant DD, Giroir BP. Differential regulation of myocardial NK kappa B following acute or chronic TNF-α exposure. J Mol Cell Cardiol. 2001; 33: 1263–1271.CrossrefMedlineGoogle Scholar
    • 10 Kadokami T, McTiernan CF, Kubota T, et al. Effects of soluble TNF receptor treatment on lipopolysaccharide-induced myocardial cytokine expression. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2001; 280: H2281–H2291.CrossrefMedlineGoogle Scholar
    • 11 Tanaka T, Kanda T, McManus BM, et al. Overexpression of interleukin-6 aggravates viral myocarditis: impaired increase in tumor necrosis factor-α. J Mol Cell Cardiol. 2001; 33: 1627–1635.CrossrefMedlineGoogle Scholar

    eLetters(0)

    eLetters should relate to an article recently published in the journal and are not a forum for providing unpublished data. Comments are reviewed for appropriate use of tone and language. Comments are not peer-reviewed. Acceptable comments are posted to the journal website only. Comments are not published in an issue and are not indexed in PubMed. Comments should be no longer than 500 words and will only be posted online. References are limited to 10. Authors of the article cited in the comment will be invited to reply, as appropriate.

    Comments and feedback on AHA/ASA Scientific Statements and Guidelines should be directed to the AHA/ASA Manuscript Oversight Committee via its Correspondence page.