The measurement of cytokines in clinical laboratories is becoming an increasingly routine part of immune monitoring when administering biologic and cell-based immunotherapies and also for clinical assessment of inflammatory conditions. While a number of commercial assays and platforms are available for cytokine measurement, there is currently little standardization among these analytical methods.
To characterize the variability and comparability among cytokine testing platforms that are commonly used in clinical laboratories.
We analyzed data for 4 cytokines (interleukin [IL]-1, IL-6, IL-8, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha [TNF-α]) from 6 College of American Pathologists cytokine surveys administered from 2015 to 2018. Analyses interrogated variability between testing methods and variability within each laboratory across the mailings.
Significant variability was noted across methods with analysis of IL-1 showing the least variability and IL-6, IL-8, and TNF-α varying between methods to a greater extent. Intralab variability was also significant with TNF-α measurements again showing the greatest variability.
This retrospective analysis of College of American Pathologists proficiency testing data for cytokine measurement is the largest method comparison to date, and this study provides a description of the variation of cytokine measurement across methods, across laboratories, and within laboratories. Serial monitoring of cytokines should preferentially be performed by the same method within the same laboratory.