Human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) -associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) is a rare chronic neuroinflammatory disease. Since the disease course of HAM/TSP varies among patients, there is a dire need for biomarkers capable of predicting the rate of disease progression. However, there have been no studies to date that have compared the prognostic values of multiple potential biomarkers for HAM/TSP.
Peripheral blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples from HAM/TSP patients and HTLV-1-infected control subjects were obtained and tested retrospectively for several potential biomarkers, including chemokines and other cytokines, and nine optimal candidates were selected based on receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis. Next, we evaluated the relationship between these candidates and the rate of disease progression in HAM/TSP patients, beginning with a first cohort of 30 patients (Training Set) and proceeding to a second cohort of 23 patients (Test Set). We defined “deteriorating HAM/TSP” as distinctly worsening function (≥3 grades on Osame's Motor Disability Score (OMDS)) over four years and “stable HAM/TSP” as unchanged or only slightly worsened function (1 grade on OMDS) over four years, and we compared the levels of the candidate biomarkers in patients divided into these two groups. The CSF levels of chemokine (C-X-C motif) ligand 10 (CXCL10), CXCL9, and neopterin were well-correlated with disease progression, better even than HTLV-1 proviral load in PBMCs. Importantly, these results were validated using the Test Set.
As the CSF levels of CXCL10, CXCL9, and neopterin were the most strongly correlated with rate of disease progression, they represent the most viable candidates for HAM/TSP prognostic biomarkers. The identification of effective prognostic biomarkers could lead to earlier detection of high-risk patients, more patient-specific treatment options, and more productive clinical trials.
HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) is a rare neurodegenerative disease caused by infection with human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1). HTLV-1 infects 10–20 million people worldwide, and, depending on the region, 0.25–3.8% of infected individuals develop HAM/TSP. As the disease progresses, chronic inflammation damages the spinal cord and lower limb and bladder function gradually decline. In the worst cases, even middle-aged patients can become perpetually bedridden. Today, there are treatments that may alleviate the symptoms to a certain degree, but there is no cure that can halt disease progression, and there are no known biomarkers to indicate the level and speed of disease progression. In this study, we successfully identified three promising candidate biomarkers. We believe that the use of these biomarkers could lead to more accurate prognoses and more prudent, patient-specific treatment plans. We not only hope that these biomarkers are sensitive enough to use as selection criteria for clinical trials, but also that measurements of these biomarkers can be used to accurately evaluate drug effectiveness. In short, the biomarkers we identified have the potential to help more effectively treat current HAM/TSP patients and to pave the way for new drugs to potentially cure future HAM/TSP patients.