Thalidomide is an immunomodulatory agent with a spectrum of activity that is not fully characterized. Thalidomide is racemic — it contains both left and right-handed isomers in equal amounts: one enantiomer is effective against morning sickness, and the other is teratogenic. The enantiomers are converted to each other in vivo. That is, if a human is given D-thalidomide or L-thalidomide, both isomers can be found in the serum. Hence, administering only one enantiomer will not prevent the teratogenic effect in humans. In patients with erythema nodosum leprosum (ENL) the mechanism of action is not fully understood. Available data from in vitro studies and preliminary clinical trials suggest that the immunologic effects of this compound can vary substantially under different conditions, but may be related to suppression of excessive tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a) production and down-modulation of selected cell surface adhesion molecules involved in leukocyte migration. For example, administration of thalidomide has been reported to decrease circulating levels of TNF-a in patients with ENL, however, it has also been shown to increase plasma TNF-a levels in HIV-seropositive patients. As a cancer treatment, the drug may act as a VEGF inhibitor. Thalidomide is used for the acute treatment of the cutaneous manifestations of moderate to severe erythema nodosum leprosum (ENL). Also for use as maintenance therapy for prevention and suppression of the cutaneous manifestations of ENL recurrence. Thalidomide is sold under the brand name Immunoprin, among others. NCATS
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