Blood Journal
Leading the way in experimental and clinical research in hematology

Biologic effects of anti-interleukin-6 murine monoclonal antibody in advanced multiple myeloma

  1. R Bataille,
  2. B Barlogie,
  3. ZY Lu,
  4. JF Rossi,
  5. T Lavabre-Bertrand,
  6. T Beck,
  7. J Wijdenes,
  8. J Brochier, and
  9. B Klein
  1. Laboratoire Central d'Hematologie, Institut de Biologie, Nantes, France.


In patients with advanced multiple myeloma (MM) there is an excess of production of interleukin-6 (IL-6) in vivo, and elevated serum levels are associated with plasmablastic proliferative activity and short survival. These data prompted us to perform a clinical trial with a murine anti-IL-6 monoclonal antibody (MoAb) to neutralize the excess of this putatively deleterious factor in these patients. Ten MM patients with extramedullary involvement frequently were treated with anti-IL-6 MoAb. The MoAb was administered intravenously to 9 patients; 1 patient with malignant pleural effusion received intrapleural therapy. Of the 3 patients who succumbed to progressive MM after less than 1 week of treatment (including the only 1 treated locally), 2 with evaluable data exhibited marked inhibition of plasmablastic proliferation. Among the 7 patients remaining more homogeneous receiving the anti-IL-6 MoAb for more than 1 week, 3 had objective antiproliferative effect marked by a significant reduction of the myeloma cell labelling index within the bone marrow. One of these 3 patients achieved a 30% regression of tumor mass. However, none of the patients studied achieved remission or improved outcome as judged by standard clinical criteria. Of major interest, objective antiproliferative effects were associated with complete inhibition of C-reactive protein (CRP) synthesis and low daily IL-6 production in vivo. On the other hand, the lack of effect in 4 patients was associated with a higher IL-6 production and inability of the MoAb to neutralize it. Anti-IL-6 was also associated with resolution of low-grade fever in all the patients and with worsening thrombocytopenia and mild neutropenia. The generation of human antibodies to Fc fragment of the murine anti-IL-6 MoAb observed in 1 patient was associated with dramatic progression. These data show that anti-IL-6 MoAb can suppress the proliferation of myeloma cells and underscore the biologic role of IL-6 for myeloma growth in vivo. Furthermore, suppression of CRP and worsening of neutropenia/thrombocytopenia both indicate that IL-6 is critically involved in acute-phase responses and granulopoiesis/thrombopoiesis.