Interleukin-6 modulates graft-versus-host responses after experimental allogeneic bone marrow transplantation

Isao Tawara, Motoko Koyama, Chen Liu, Tomomi Toubai, Dafydd Thomas, Rebecca Evers, Peter Chockley, Evelyn Nieves, Yaping Sun, Kathleen P. Lowler, Chelsea Malter, Norihiro Nishimoto, Geoffrey R. Hill, Pavan Reddy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


Purpose: The graft-versus-tumor (GVT) effect is a potent form of immunotherapy against many hematologic malignancies and some solid tumors. The beneficial GVT effect after allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT) is tightly linked to its most significant complication, graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). The role of interleukin-6 (IL-6) after allogeneic BMT is not well understood. This study used a series of complementary knockout and antibody blockade strategies to analyze the impact of IL-6 in multiple clinically relevant murine models of GVHD and GVT. Experimental Design: We examined the effect of the source of IL-6 by analyzing the role IL-6 deficiency in donor T cells, donor bone marrow or in host tissues. We confirmed and extended the relevance of IL-6 deficiency on GVHD and GVT by treating BMT recipients with anti-mouse IL-6 receptor (IL-6R), MR16-1. Results: Deficiency of IL-6 in donor T cells led to prolongation of survival. Total inhibition of IL-6 with MR16-1 caused an even greater reduction in GVHD-induced mortality. The reduction in GVHD was independent of the direct effects on T effector cell expansion or donor regulatory T cells. GVT responses were preserved after treatment with MR16-1. Conclusion: MR16-1 treatment reduced GVHD and preserved sufficient GVT. Tocilizumab, a humanized anti-IL-6R monoclonal antibody (mAb), is approved in several countries including the United States and European Union for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Blockade of IL-6 with anti-IL-6R mAb therapy may be testable in clinical trials as an adjunct to prevent GVHD in BMT patients without a significant loss of GVT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-88
Number of pages12
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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