Antitumor effect of humanized anti-interleukin-6 receptor antibody (tocilizumab) on glioma cell proliferation. Laboratory investigation

J Neurosurg. 2009 Aug;111(2):219-25. doi: 10.3171/2008.12.JNS081284.


Object: Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a pleiotropic cytokine that regulates diverse physiological functions, including cell proliferation and survival. Recent studies have shown that IL-6 expression is often elevated in response to several types of glioma. Although IL-6 is said to play an important role in glioma, the involvement of IL-6 signaling has been quite controversial. The aim of this study was to evaluate the involvement of IL-6 signaling in glioma and the inhibitory effect of IL-6 signaling on glioma tumor proliferation.

Methods: The expression of IL-6 receptors (IL-6Rs) was evaluated in glioma tissues by means of immunohistochemical analysis, and the involvement of IL-6 signaling in glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) U87MG cell proliferation was also determined. In addition, to examine the inhibitory effect of IL-6 signaling on glioma cell proliferation, the authors investigated the effects of tocilizumab, the humanized anti-human IL-6R antibody in U87MG cells.

Results: Increased immunoreactivity for IL-6R was predominantly found in the cytoplasm of endothelial cells in all GBM samples. Inhibition of IL-6 signaling by both IL-6- and IL-6R-specific small interfering RNA and AG490, a specific inhibitor of JAK2 phosphorylation, suppressed glioma cell proliferation. Furthermore, tocilizumab, a clinically developed humanized anti-human IL-6R antibody, exerted an antiproliferative effect on cells from the GBM cell line U87MG via the IL-6R-dependent JAK-STAT3 pathway.

Conclusions: The IL-6 signaling pathway plays an important role in glioma cell proliferation, and tocilizumab exerts an antitumor effect in U87MG glioma cells. These results may bring new insight into the molecular pathogenesis of glioma and may lead to a new therapeutic intervention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Glioma / chemistry
  • Glioma / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Interleukin-6 / physiology*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6 / analysis
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6 / immunology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Interleukin-6
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6
  • tocilizumab