Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract Circulating interleukin-6 (IL-6) concentrations correlate with disease activity in severe inflammatory conditions, in sepsis and in some hematological malignancies. On the other hand, IL-6 is a potent stimulator of osteoclastogenesis and has been implicated as a contributory factor in the genesis of osteopenic conditions. We measured circulating IL-6 levels by a sensitive (detection limit of 10 U/ml) and specific bioassay in 103 patients with advanced cancer, including 41 with tumor-induced hypercalcemia before any specific hypocalcemic therapy. We related IL-6 concentrations to clinical features and to biochemical parameters of bone metabolism, including blood Ca, Ca2+, Pi, intact parathyroid hormone, parathyroid hormone-related protein, osteocalcin, 1,25-(OH)2-vitamin D and, as markers of bone resorption, the fasting urinary excretion of calcium (Ca/creatinine) and hydroxyproline. IL-6 levels were increased, i.e. detectable, in 23% of the patients, 8/41 (20%) hypercalcemic and 16/62 (26%) normocalcemic patients (NS); the distribution of the values was similar in the two groups. The presence of increased IL-6 concentrations was not related to any clinical characteristic, notably not to the survival nor to the existence of bone metastases, whether in hypercalcemic or normocalcemic patients; e.g., only 3/12 (25%) hypercalcemic subjects without bone metastases had elevated IL-6 levels. We found no significant correlations between IL-6 concentrations and any of the biochemical parameters studied. Hypercalcemic subjects with increased IL-6 had higher urinary Ca/creatinine levels than patients with normal IL-6 levels (P〈0.005) but this was not the case in normocalcemic subjects. Mean concentrations of inflammatory or other bone metabolism markers were not significantly different between patients with normal or with elevated IL-6 levels. In summary, circulating IL-6 levels were increased in 23% of 103 patients with advanced cancer, but the frequency of increased IL-6 concentrations was not related to the presence of hypercalcemia or to any marker of calcium metabolism or bone turnover. The pathogenic importance of circulating IL-6 in patients with solid tumors remains to be demonstrated and our data indicate that increased circulating levels of IL-6, possibly reflecting the activation of the immune system, only contribute in a minor way to the osteolytic process in patients with tumor-induced hypercalcemia.
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