The systemic administration of human rIL-6 to mice resulted in the regression of established, 3-day pulmonary micrometastases from two weakly immunogenic tumors, but not from a nonimmunogenic tumor, in the absence of observable toxicity. Although IL-6 alone failed to have a significant therapeutic impact on advanced, 10-day pulmonary macrometastases from weakly immunogenic tumors, substantial cure rates of mice could be achieved when this cytokine was combined with cyclophosphamide. Histologic analysis of the lungs of mice receiving IL-6 revealed infiltration with lymphoid cells during the regression of pulmonary nodules from a weakly immunogenic tumor. IL-6-mediated tumor regression could be abrogated after selective in vivo depletion of either CD4 or CD8 T cell subsets by the systemic administration of specific mAb. In vivo generation of tumor-specific CTL, but not of lymphokine-activated killer cells, was detected in the lungs of IL-6-treated mice during regression of pulmonary metastases. Collectively, these findings demonstrate a role for IL-6 in the treatment of established solid tumors that have the capacity to elicit T cell responses in the host. Differences in host cellular mechanisms involved in tumor regression mediated by immunotherapy using IL-6 vs IL-2 are discussed.

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