Background: Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a multifunctional cytokine that can be produced by human ovarian cancer cells. Elevated IL-6 levels have been found in the serum and ascites of patients with ovarian cancer, but its role in this disease has not been clearly established.
Methods: The authors studied the relationship between IL-6 levels in serum and ascites, various tumor parameters, and survival in 70 patients with newly diagnosed, untreated epithelial ovarian cancer. Ascites and serum specimens were obtained at the time of initial surgery, and IL-6 levels were determined using the B9 bioassay.
Results: All patients underwent platinum-based chemotherapy after initial surgery. The median age of the group was 62 years (range, 28-87 years), and the median follow-up time was 13 months (range, 12-59 months). Significantly higher IL-6 levels were detected in patients' ascites (median, 49,612 pg/ml [range, < 1 to 680,330 pg/ml]) compared with serum (median, 10 pg/ml [range, < 1 to 1221 pg/ml]) (P < 0.0001). IL-6 levels in ascites correlated significantly with the volume of ascites (P < 0.0001) and nearly so with the size of tumor found at initial surgery (P = 0.05). Serum and ascites IL-6 levels did not correlate statistically with overall survival time, tumor stage, grade, histologic findings, residual tumor volume after debulking, and serum CA 125 levels. Although not statistically significant, patients who responded to chemotherapy tended to have lower ascites IL-6 levels (median, 21,102 pg/ml) compared with patients who did not respond to chemotherapy (median, 40,200 pg/ml).
Conclusions: IL-6 is present in very high amounts in the ascites of patients with epithelial ovarian cancer. IL-6 levels in ascites correlated significantly with ascites volume and initial tumor size. IL-6 levels in ascites and serum did not correlate statistically with other tumor parameters or with survival time.