IL-6 plays a pivotal role in immune responses and certain oncologic conditions. The intense investigation of its biological activity and function led to the discovery of two different IL-6-driven signalling pathways. Binding to the membrane-bound IL-6 receptor (mIL-6R, CD126) causes the recruitment of two gp130 co-receptor molecules (CD130) and the activation of intracellular signalling cascades via gp130. Although this classical pathway is mainly limited to hepatocytes, neutrophils, monocytes/macrophages and certain other leukocyte populations, which express IL-6R on their surface, an alternative mechanism has also been described. Proteolytic cleavage of the mIL-6R protein or translation from alternatively spliced mRNA leads to the generation of a soluble form of the IL-6R (sIL-6R), which is likewise able to bind to IL-6. The resulting IL-6/sIL-6R complex is also capable of binding to gp130 and inducing intracellular signalling. Through this so-called 'trans-signalling' mechanism, IL-6 is able to stimulate cells that lack an endogenous mIL-6R. High levels of IL-6 and sIL-6R have been reported in several chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases as well as in cancer. Preclinical animal disease models have provided strong evidence that specific blockade of IL-6-regulated signalling pathways represents a promising approach for the therapy of these diseases. An optimised variant of the recently described fusion protein sgp30Fc is now heading towards its clinical evaluation.