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Blood. 1995 May 1;85(9):2347-53.

Thrombopoietic effects and toxicity of interleukin-6 in patients with ovarian cancer before and after chemotherapy: a multicentric placebo-controlled, randomized phase Ib study.

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Department of Oncology, Catholic University of Louvain, Brussels, Belgium.


Recombinant human interleukin-6 (IL-6) has previously been shown to increase platelet counts in normal and sublethally irradiated mice, dogs, and primates. To assess its tolerance and efficacy in clinical use, we performed a randomized phase Ib study in patients with ovarian carcinoma. IL-6 was administered during an initial 7-day cycle before any chemotherapy. Beginning 7 days later, six cycles of chemotherapy containing carboplatin were administered every 3 weeks. During chemotherapy cycles 2 to 6, IL-6 was administered from day 4 through day 17 at escalating dose levels from 0.5 to 10 micrograms/kg/d. At each level, three patients received IL-6 and one patient received a placebo. During the prechemotherapy cycle of IL-6, a dose-dependent increase in platelet count was observed from day 12 to 15 and was maximal on day 15 (r = .77; P < .01). The median ploidy of bone marrow megakaryocytes shifted from 16 N to 32 N after 7 days of the initial prechemotherapy IL-6 administration. Dose-dependent increases in C-reactive protein (CRP) and fibrinogen levels were observed on day 8 (P < .0001 for both). A significant decrease in hemoglobin level occured rapidly after initiation of IL-6 therapy and was maximal on day 8 (P < .001). When given after chemotherapy, IL-6 accelerated platelet recovery after chemotherapy cycles 2 to 6. Postponements of scheduled chemotherapy due to thrombocytopenia were less frequent in patients treated with IL-6. No difference in either neutrophils or peripheral blood progenitor assays was observed during or after IL-6 treatment. Toxicity of IL-6 appeared mild and was not dose-limiting up to 10 micrograms/kg/d. Systemic symptoms such as fever, headache, and myalgia were the main side effects and were easily relieved by acetaminophen administration. No biologic toxicity was observed. The data indicate that IL-6 is a well-tolerated cytokine and capable of accelerating platelet recovery in patients receiving chemotherapy.

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