Biliary tract cancer (BTC) represents a malignant tumor of the biliary tract including cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) and the carcinoma of the gallbladder (GBC) with a 5-year survival rate between 5 and 18% due to late diagnosis and rapid disease progression. Chronic inflammation is one of the main risk factors for CCA and GBC in particular. IL-6, as a mediator of inflammation, can act through a membrane-bound receptor alpha-chain (mIL-6R, "IL-6 classic signaling") or via soluble forms (sIL-6R, "IL-6 trans-signaling"). However, little is known about the impact on cellular responses of IL-6 trans-signaling on BTC. We analyzed primary tumors as whole sections and as tissue microarrays, and also searched The Cancer Genome Atlas database. Compared to non-neoplastic, non-inflamed gallbladder tissue, IL-6Rα was downregulated in GBC, and this correlated with the patients' overall survival. Furthermore, different CCA cell lines and compounds for activation (IL-6 and Hyper-IL-6) or inhibition (Tocilizumab and sgp130Fc) of IL-6 classic signaling and trans-signaling were used to determine their effects on cellular processes between the two modes of IL-6 signaling. Inhibition of IL-6 trans-signaling by sgp130Fc reduced CCA cell line viability and apoptosis, whereas migration and proliferation were increased. We conclude that IL-6Rα expression is a good prognostic marker for GBC, and that the blocking of IL-6 trans-signaling and activation of IL-6 classic signaling have tumor promoting activity. These findings warrant the exclusion of patients with GBC or other malignancies associated with bile metabolism from IL-6R inhibitor therapy.
Keywords: Cholangiocarcinoma; Gallbladder cancer; IL-6 receptor signaling; IL-6 trans-signaling; STAT3.
Copyright © 2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.