Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) blast cells frequently produce interleukin-6 (IL-6) and other cytokines such as colony-stimulating factors (CSF: G-CSF, M-CSF, and GM-CSF), tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, and IL-1. The AML blast cells that produced IL-6 alone could not form autonomous in vitro colonies, whereas the blast cells that coexpressed CSF in addition to IL-6 were able to form such colonies. This suggests that IL-6 acts as a costimulator to enhance CSF-induced clonogenicity of AML blast cells. TNF-alpha and IL-1 that are produced from the blast cells may stimulate the growth of the AML blast cells by inducing production of CSF in bone marrow stromal cells or in the blast cell population itself. Improvement of clinical manifestations by the administration of an anti-IL-6 murine monoclonal antibody in a patient with AML-M5B confirmed an important role of IL-6 in in-vivo growth of the blast cells. The mRNA expression of IL-6 and its related genes in AML and acute lymphoid leukemia (ALL) blast cells was analyzed by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). IL-6 mRNA expression was common in AML, but rare in ALL, whereas the IL-6 receptor (IL-6R) mRNA was expressed in almost all cases of AML and in more than half of the cases of ALL. In contrast, gp130 was ubiquitously expressed in both AML and ALL. A significant correlation between the levels of IL-6R expression and the responsiveness of the blast cells to exogenous IL-6 was observed. This suggests the possibility of the rapid prediction of the responsiveness of leukemic cells to exogenous IL-6 (IL-6 administration for therapy) by rapid measurement of IL-6R mRNA by RT-PCR.