Purpose: We investigated whether inhibition of interleukin 6 (IL-6) has therapeutic activity in ovarian cancer via abrogation of a tumor-promoting cytokine network.
Experimental design: We combined preclinical and in silico experiments with a phase 2 clinical trial of the anti-IL-6 antibody siltuximab in patients with platinum-resistant ovarian cancer.
Results: Automated immunohistochemistry on tissue microarrays from 221 ovarian cancer cases showed that intensity of IL-6 staining in malignant cells significantly associated with poor prognosis. Treatment of ovarian cancer cells with siltuximab reduced constitutive cytokine and chemokine production and also inhibited IL-6 signaling, tumor growth, the tumor-associated macrophage infiltrate and angiogenesis in IL-6-producing intraperitoneal ovarian cancer xenografts. In the clinical trial, the primary endpoint was response rate as assessed by combined RECIST and CA125 criteria. One patient of eighteen evaluable had a partial response, while seven others had periods of disease stabilization. In patients treated for 6 months, there was a significant decline in plasma levels of IL-6-regulated CCL2, CXCL12, and VEGF. Gene expression levels of factors that were reduced by siltuximab treatment in the patients significantly correlated with high IL-6 pathway gene expression and macrophage markers in microarray analyses of ovarian cancer biopsies.
Conclusion: IL-6 stimulates inflammatory cytokine production, tumor angiogenesis, and the tumor macrophage infiltrate in ovarian cancer and these actions can be inhibited by a neutralizing anti-IL-6 antibody in preclinical and clinical studies.