Protein C and acute inflammation: A clinical and biological perspective

Academic Article


  • The protein C system plays an active role in modulating severe systemic inflammatory processes such as sepsis, trauma, and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) via its anticoagulant and antiinflammatory properties. Plasma levels of activated protein C (aPC) are lower than normal in acute inflammation in humans, except early after severe trauma when high plasma levels of aPC may play a mechanistic role in the development of posttraumatic coagulopathy. Thus, following positive results of preclinical studies, a clinical trial (PROWESS) with high continuous doses of recombinant human aPC given for 4 days demonstrated a survival benefit in patients with severe sepsis. This result was not confirmed by subsequent clinical trials, including the recently published PROWESS-SHOCK trial in patients with septic shock and a phase II trial with patients with nonseptic ARDS. A possible explanation for the major difference in outcome between PROWESS and PROWESS-SHOCK trials is that lungprotective ventilation was used for the patients included in the recent PROWESSSHOCK, but not in the original PROWESS trial. Since up to 75% of sepsis originates from the lung, aPC treatment may not have added enough to the beneficial effect of lung-protective ventilation to show lower mortality. Thus whether aPC will continue to be used to modulate the acute inflammatory response in humans remains uncertain. Because recombinant human aPC has been withdrawn from the market, a better understanding of the complex interactions between coagulation and inflammation is needed before considering the development of new drugs that modulate both coagulation and acute inflammation in humans. © 2013 the American Physiological Society.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Christiaans SC; Wagener BM; Esmon CT; Pittet JF
  • Volume

  • 305
  • Issue

  • 7