The acute-phase response is the answer of the organism to a disturbance of its homeostasis and is characterized by dramatic changes in the concentration of some plasma proteins defined as acute-phase proteins. In recent years several data have shown that interleukin-6 (IL-6) is the major inducer of acute-phase protein synthesis in human hepatocytes. Recently, we demonstrated higher IL-6 serum levels in head and neck cancer (HNC) patients than in healthy subjects. In the present study we examined the relationship between levels of IL-6 and of several acute-phase proteins, including C-reactive protein (CRP), alpha 1-antitrypsin (ATT), alpha 1-acid glycoprotein (AAG), haptoglobin (HPT) and fibrinogen. Eighteen patients were studied and had squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx (n = 9), oral cavity (n = 4), oropharynx (n = 3) and hypopharynx (n = 2). Proteins were measured at three time points before and three time points after surgery. Significant (P < 0.0001) relationships were found between IL-6 and CRP (r = 0.69), and fibrinogen (r = 0.51), whereas no correlation was found with AAT (r = 0.13, P = 0.56), AAG (r = 0.38; P = 0.07) and HPT (r = 0.16; P = 0.46). These data strongly suggest that IL-6 may play a key role in acute-phase protein synthesis in HNC and in regulation of the complex host response to malignancies.