IL-6-like cytokines and cancer cachexia: consequences of chronic inflammation

Immunol Res. 2001;23(1):41-58. doi: 10.1385/IR:23:1:41.


An estimated 30% of cancer deaths are attributed to cachexia and its consequences. Cachexia (wasting syndrome) is the hypercatabolism of the body's carbon sources, proteins and lipids, for conversion into energy. It is induced by a variety of pathological conditions, including cancer. Among the inflammatory responses to cancer is the synthesis of cytokines, including IL-6 and related cytokines. These cytokines have been found to induce cachexia by altering metabolism of lipids and proteins. IL-6-like cytokines have been found to inhibit lipid biosynthesis by adipocytes, which increased the rate of lipid catabolism. Others have described the atrophy and increased catabolism of muscle protein due to IL-6. A cytokine closely-related to IL-6 is leptin, which plays a major role in lipid metabolism under normal conditions. The role of leptin in pathological conditions such as cancer cachexia has not yet been fully elucidated. Detailed mechanistic information about the induction of cancer cachexia by IL-6-like cytokines requires more research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cachexia / complications
  • Cachexia / immunology
  • Cachexia / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Interleukin-6 / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-6 / immunology*
  • Leptin / metabolism
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Lipids / biosynthesis
  • Mice
  • Muscle Proteins / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / metabolism


  • Interleukin-6
  • Leptin
  • Lipids
  • Muscle Proteins