Clinical value of blocking IL-6 receptor

Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2009 May;21(3):224-30. doi: 10.1097/BOR.0b013e3283295fec.


Purpose of review: Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a multifunctional cytokine that regulates inflammatory response and immune reaction. Overproduction of IL-6 is pathologically involved in inflammatory autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and therefore, blocking IL-6 activity is one of therapeutic options for these diseases. Tocilizumab is a humanized anti-IL-6 receptor (IL-6R) antibody and inhibits IL-6 activity. There is now accumulating evidence that tocilizumab is therapeutically effective for patients with RA and other inflammatory autoimmune diseases. This article reviews the clinical value of blocking IL-6R.

Recent findings: Tocilizumab, as monotherapy and in combination with methotrexate, has been shown to be effective for RA patients with insufficient efficacy to methotrexate or other disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs. These findings of tocilizumab have been expanded to patients refractory to tumor necrosis factor inhibitors. Tocilizumab also retards the progression of structural joint damage. Furthermore, a 5-year long-term safety and efficacy has been shown. Tocilizumab is also a promising therapeutic option for other rheumatic diseases such as systemic-onset juvenile idiopathic arthritis, adult-onset Still's disease, and Takayasu arteritis.

Summary: Blocking IL-6R with tocilizumab represents a promising new treatment for RA and other inflammatory diseases. Large registry data will warrant the safety profile of tocilizumab.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / adverse effects
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Arthritis, Juvenile / immunology
  • Arthritis, Juvenile / therapy
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / therapy*
  • Child
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6 / antagonists & inhibitors*


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