Clinical characterization and risk factors associated with cytokine release syndrome induced by COVID-19 and chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy

18 Sep, 2020


An excessive immune response during coronavirus disease (COVID-19) can induce cytokine release syndrome (CRS), which is associated with life-threatening complications and disease progression. This retrospective study evaluated the clinical characteristics of severe CRS (sCRS, grade 3–4) induced by severe COVID-19 (40 patients) or chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy as a comparator (41 patients). Grade 4 CRS was significantly more common in the COVID-19 group (15/40 (35.7%) vs. 5/41 (12.2%), P = 0.008). The CAR-T group had more dramatic increase in cytokines, including IL-2, IL-6, IL-10, and IFN-γ. Interestingly, COVID-19 group had significantly higher levels for TNF-α (31.1 pg/ml (16.1–70.0) vs. 3.3 (1.8–9.6), P < 0.001) and lg viral loads were correlated with lg IL-6 (R2 = 0.101; P < 0.001) and lg IL-10 (R2 = 0.105; P < 0.001). The independent risk factor for COVID-19-related sCRS was hypertension history (OR: 4.876, 95% CI: 2.038–11.668; P < 0.001). Our study demonstrated that there were similar processes but different intensity of inflammatory responses of sCRS in COVID-19 and CAR-T group. The diagnose and management of severe COVID-19-related sCRS can learn lessons from treatment of sCRS induced by CAR-T therapy.

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