Signalling through the interleukin (IL)-6 pathway induces proliferation and drug resistance of multiple myeloma cells. We therefore sought to determine whether the IL-6-neutralizing monoclonal antibody siltuximab, formerly CNTO 328, could enhance the activity of melphalan, and to examine some of the mechanisms underlying this interaction. Siltuximab increased the cytotoxicity of melphalan in KAS-6/1, INA-6, ANBL-6, and RPMI 8226 human myeloma cell lines (HMCLs) in an additive-to-synergistic manner, and sensitized resistant RPMI 8226.LR5 cells to melphalan. These anti-proliferative effects were accompanied by enhanced activation of drug-specific apoptosis in HMCLs grown in suspension, and in HMCLs co-cultured with a human-derived stromal cell line. Siltuximab with melphalan enhanced activation of caspase-8, caspase-9, and the downstream effector caspase-3 compared with either of the single agents. This increased induction of cell death occurred in association with enhanced Bak activation. Neutralization of IL-6 also suppressed signalling through the phosphoinositide 3-kinase/Akt pathway, as evidenced by decreased phosphorylation of Akt, p70 S6 kinase and 4E-BP1. Importantly, the siltuximab/melphalan regimen demonstrated enhanced anti-proliferative effects against primary plasma cells derived from patients with myeloma, monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, and amyloidosis. These studies provide a rationale for translation of siltuximab into the clinic in combination with melphalan-based therapies.
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.