Potential influence of interleukin-6 on the therapeutic effect of gefitinib in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer harbouring EGFR mutations

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Although epidermal growth factor receptor-tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR-TKIs) are a key therapy used for patients with EGFR-mutant non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), some of whom do not respond well to its therapy. Cytokine including IL-6 secreted by tumour cells is postulated as a potential mechanism for the primary resistance or low sensitivity to EGFR-TKIs. Fifty-two patients with advanced EGFR-mutant NSCLC who had received gefitinib were assessed retrospectively. The protein expression of IL-6 in the tumour cells was assessed by immunostaining and judged as positive if ≥ 50 of 100 tumour cells stained positively. Of the 52 patients, 24 (46%) and 28 (54%) were defined as IL-6-postitive (group P) and IL-6-negative (group N), respectively. Group P had worse progression-free survival (PFS) than that of group N, which was retained in the multivariate analysis (hazard ratio: 2.39; 95 %CI: 1.00-5.68; p < 0.05). By contrast, the PFS after platinum-based chemotherapy did not differ between groups P and N (p = 0.47). In cell line-based model, the impact of IL-6 on the effect of EGFR-TKIs was assessed. The combination of EGFR-TKI and anti-IL-6 antibody moderately improved the sensitivity of EGFR-TKI in lung cancer cell with EGFR mutation. Interestingly, suppression of EGFR with EGFR-TKI accelerated the activation of STAT3 induced by IL-6. Taken together, tumour IL-6 levels might indicate a subpopulation of EGFR-mutant NSCLC that benefits less from gefitinib monotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2017



  • Interleukin-6
  • Lung cancer
  • Survival

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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