The value of blocking IL-6 outside of rheumatoid arthritis: current perspective

Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2011 May;23(3):273-7. doi: 10.1097/BOR.0b013e3283456797.


Purpose of review: Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a multifunctional cytokine that regulates immune response and induces acute phase response. Despite the important physiological activities of IL-6, dysregulated overproduction of IL-6 is pathologically involved in various immune-mediated inflammatory diseases (IMIDs) including rheumatoid arthritis (RA). A series of clinical studies of tocilizumab, a humanized anti-IL-6 receptor (IL-6R) antibody, for patients with RA refractory to conventional therapy or anti-tumor necrosis factor therapy have demonstrated the clinical benefit of IL-6 blockade in RA. On the other hand, there is now accumulating evidence that tocilizumab is therapeutically effective for patients with a number of IMIDs other than RA. This review focuses on the perspective of IL-6 blockade therapy for such IL-6-related IMIDs outside of RA.

Recent findings: A considerable number of case reports and preclinical studies have shown the benefit of IL-6 blockade therapy in various IMIDs such as systemic lupus erythematosus, adult-onset Still disease, Takayasu arthritis, polyarteritis nodosa, systemic sclerosis, reactive arthritis, dermatomyositis, and polymyositis.

Summary: Blocking IL-6 with tocilizumab can be a therapeutic option for patients with various IMIDs in which overproduction of IL-6 plays a pathological role. Future clinical studies investigating the safety and efficacy will elucidate the clinical benefits of IL-6 blockade therapy for such diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Arthritis, Reactive / immunology
  • Arthritis, Reactive / therapy
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / therapy*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Dermatomyositis / immunology
  • Dermatomyositis / therapy
  • Humans
  • Immune System Diseases / immunology
  • Immune System Diseases / therapy*
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / therapy*
  • Interleukin-6 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / therapy
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / immunology
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / therapy
  • Still's Disease, Adult-Onset / immunology
  • Still's Disease, Adult-Onset / therapy
  • Takayasu Arteritis / immunology
  • Takayasu Arteritis / therapy


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • IL6 protein, human
  • Interleukin-6
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6
  • tocilizumab