Interleukin-6: A New Therapeutic Target in Scleroderma PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 12 May 2013 19:15
Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a classic pro-inflammatory cytokine critical in mounting an effective immune response. It is secreted by a wide array of cell types; however, its effector cells are more restricted, owing to the fact that very few cells, except lymphocytes and hepatocytes, express the functional membrane IL-6 receptor thus reducing the number of IL-6-responsive cells. Transsignalling, the shedding of the membrane-bound form of the IL-6 receptor into the local microenvironment, greatly increases the range of cells that can respond. IL-6 has been demonstrated to have a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis, Castleman’s disease and Crohn’s disease exemplified by the use of an anti-IL-6 biological therapy.

However, IL-6 is also associated with the autoimmune disease systemic sclerosis (SSc) and has been shown to be directly fibrotic. Elevated levels of IL-6 are found in SSc patients and this correlates with skin thickness, suggesting a causal effect. This review focuses on the role of IL-6 in SSc, a chronic autoimmune disease with fibrosis. In particular, we will examine the evidence base of the role of IL-6 in fibrosis in this condition, especially the downstream effector pathways. We will then argue why molecular targeting of IL-6 is a promising therapeutic target in this fibrosing disease.

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