IL-6 contributes to host defense against infections and tissue injuries. However, exaggerated, excessive synthesis of IL-6 while fighting environmental stress leads to an acute severe systemic inflammatory response known as 'cytokine storm', since high levels of IL-6 can activate the coagulation pathway and vascular endothelial cells but inhibit myocardial function. Remarkable beneficial effects of IL-6 blockade therapy using a humanized anti-IL-6 receptor antibody, tocilizumab were recently observed in patients with cytokine release syndrome complicated by T-cell engaged therapy. In this review we propose the possibility that IL-6 blockade may constitute a novel therapeutic strategy for other types of cytokine storm, such as the systemic inflammatory response syndrome including sepsis, macrophage activation syndrome and hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis.
Keywords: IL-6; cytokine storm; interleukin-6; sepsis; tocilizumab.