Previously called Crow–Fukase syndrome, POEMS syndrome is characterized by poly-neuropathy, osteo-sclerotic myeloma, organomegaly, endocrinopathy, monoclonal plasma cell disorder, and skin changes. Extremely elevated levels of serum vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) are characteristic of the syndrome. Chronic hepatitis B (HBV) and C (HCV) infections can also be present in POEMS. The pathogenesis of the syndrome is not well understood. The link between chronic alcohol consumption and this malignant condition has not been reported until now. In addition, no previous study has evaluated the influence of cytokine and chemokines or viruses in the severity and evolution of POEMS. Objectives: (1) to describe a heavy-alcohol user, who was diagnosed with POEMS; (2) to demonstrate the utility of quantitative measurement of serum levels of VEGF in the diagnosis of POEMS and the monitoring of therapeutic interventions; (3) to demonstrate that overproduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines is a characteristic of POEMS. Methods: We describe a case of a POEMS patient presenting HCV and who is a heavy drinker; we compare the serum levels of cytokines and chemokines between the POEMS patient with 80 patients with HCV, 12 healthy controls, and 80 individuals with alcoholic liver disease (ALD). We quantified (ELISA pg/mL) the levels of VEGF, Interferon gamma (IFN-γ), Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha (TNF-α), Regulated-upon-Activation Normal-T-cell-Expressed and presumably-Secreted (RANTES), and Nuclear Factor kappa-B (NFκB). Results: In POEMS patients, VEGF levels were elevated versus control or other diseases, TNFα levels were higher versus control, but lower when compared with HCV or ALD patients. VEGF levels in POEMS patients decreased with therapeutic intervention. Conclusions: Chronic alcohol misuse can be a strong risk factor to rare malignancies such as POEMS syndrome. Extreme elevation of VEGF levels is diagnostic for POEMS syndrome, and should be followed to assess response to therapy. In addition, other comorbidities should be considered individually to ensure personalized therapeutic intervention.
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