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J Clin Oncol. 1993 Mar;11(3):499-506.

Phase I trial of subcutaneous interleukin-6 in patients with advanced malignancies.

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National Cancer Institute, Surgery Branch, Bethesda, MD 20892.



Based on preclinical evidence in murine models that interleukin-6 (IL-6) mediates regression of metastatic tumors, we performed a phase I study of recombinant human IL-6 in patients with refractory advanced malignancies to determine its pharmacokinetics, toxicities, and possible immunologic and antitumor effects.


Recombinant IL-6 was administered as a single subcutaneous dose daily for 7 days, with 7 days off therapy followed by another 7 days of IL-6. Doses were escalated in cohorts of three patients starting at 3 micrograms/kg/d, provided that toxicity at the preceding dose level was not dose-limiting. Dose-limiting toxicity was defined as grade III or IV major organ toxicity that did not resolve to grade II or less in 24 hours after stopping IL-6, using the National Cancer Institute Common Toxicity Criteria. Patients were treated with 3, 10, and 30 micrograms/kg/d IL-6 subcutaneously.


Three patients each were treated at the 3- and 10-micrograms dose levels. Two of five patients treated with 30 micrograms/kg/d IL-6 subcutaneously had grade III major organ toxicity that required IL-6 therapy to be discontinued. All patients experienced fever, chills, and minor fatigue. Significant increases in C-reactive protein (CRP), fibrinogen, platelet counts, and lymphocyte IL-2 receptor levels were seen in patients at the 10- and 30-micrograms/kg dose levels. Decreases in albumin and hemoglobin were observed, particularly at the 30-micrograms/kg dose level. The half-life (T1/2 beta) was 4.2 hours, with a peak IL-6 level at 5 hours. No antitumor responses were seen.


A safely tolerated dose of daily subcutaneous IL-6 is 10 micrograms/kg, with hepatotoxicity and cardiac arrhythmia being the dose-limiting toxicities at 30 micrograms/kg. Phase II trials of IL-6 administered subcutaneously daily for at least 7 days for two cycles with an intervening week of rest are recommended for phase II trials. However, patients with extensive replacement of liver by tumor and abnormal liver functions should receive IL-6 therapy with caution.

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