Research Papers:

Targeting IL-6 receptor reduces IgM levels and tumor growth in Waldenström macroglobulinemia

Weiguo Han, Stephan J. Matissek, David A. Jackson, Brandon Sklavanitis and Sherine F. Elsawa _

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Oncotarget. 2019; 10:3400-3407. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.26946

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Weiguo Han1,2, Stephan J. Matissek1,2, David A. Jackson1, Brandon Sklavanitis1 and Sherine F. Elsawa1,2

1 Department of Biological Sciences, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, USA

2 Current address: Department of Molecular, Cellular and Biomedical Sciences, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, USA

Correspondence to:

Sherine F. Elsawa,email: [email protected]

Keywords: Waldenström macroglobulinemia; IL-6; Tocilizumab; tumor microenvironment

Abbreviations: TME: tumor microenvironment; WM: Waldenström macroglobulinemia; NHL: Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma; IL-6R: interleukin 6 receptor

Received: April 02, 2019     Accepted: May 05, 2019     Published: May 21, 2019


The tumor microenvironment (TME) plays an important role in cancer cell biology and is implicated in resistance to therapy. In Waldenström macroglobulinemia (WM), a subtype of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the TME modulates WM biology by secreting cytokines that promote the malignant phenotype. In previous work, we have shown that TME-IL-6 promotes WM cell growth and IgM secretion in WM. Tocilizumab/Actemra is an anti-IL-6R antibody, which can competitively block IL-6 binding to the IL-6R. We investigated the efficacy of Tocilizumab in a preclinical mouse model of WM that considers the role of the TME in disease biology. Hairless SCID mice were subcutaneously implanted with BCWM.1 or RPCI-WM1 and bone marrow stromal cells. Groups of mice were treated with Tocilizumab or control antibody three times/week for 5 weeks and the effect on tumor burden and disease biology were evaluated. Although Tocilizumab had no effect on mice survival, there was a significant reduction in tumor growth rate in mice injected with RPCI-WM1 cells treated with Tocilizumab. In mice injected with BCWM.1 cells, there was a significant reduction in human IgM secretion in mice sera with Tocilizumab treatment. There was no significant change in mice weight suggesting Tocilizumab induced no toxicities to the mice. Taken together, our data found that administration of Tocilizumab to tumor bearing mice, results in a significant reduction in tumor volume and IgM secretion. Therefore, the evaluation of the role of Tocilizumab in WM patients may provide therapeutic efficacy by reducing IgM production and slowing the rate of tumor growth.

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