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Interleukin 6: The biology behind the therapy
  1. Simon A Jones1,
  2. Tsutomu Takeuchi2,
  3. Daniel Aletaha3,
  4. Josef Smolen4,
  5. Ernest H Choy1,
  6. Iain McInnes5
  1. 1 Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK
  2. 2 Keio University Hospital, Shinjuku, Japan
  3. 3 Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
  4. 4 Medical University of Vienna and Hietzing Hospital, Vienna, Austria
  5. 5 University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Simon A Jones, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF10 3XQ, UK, JonesSA{at}


The cytokine interleukin (IL)−6 performs a diverse portfolio of functions in normal physiology and disease. These functions extend beyond the typical role for an inflammatory cytokine, and IL-6 often displays hormone-like properties that affect metabolic processes associated with lipid metabolism, insulin resistance, and the neuroendocrine system. Consequently, the biology of IL-6 is complex. Recent advances in the field have led to novel interpretations of how IL-6 delivers immune homeostasis in health and yet drives disease pathology during infection, autoimmunity, and cancer. Various biological drugs that target IL-6 are in clinical practice or emerging in clinical trials and pre-clinical development programmes. The challenge is knowing how and when to apply these therapies. In this review, we will explore the biology behind IL-6 directed therapies and identify some key hurdles for future investigation.

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  • Funding This initiative is sponsored by R-Pharm through the provision of an unrestricted educational grant. R-Pharm has had no influence over the content.

  • Competing interests DA declares no conflicts. EHC reports grants from NovImmune AG, grants and personal fees from Pfizer, grants from UCB, grants and personal fees from Roche, personal fees from Abbvie, Biogen, Bristol Myer Scripps, Chugai Pharma, Eli Lilly, Hospira, Janssen, Novartis, Regeneron, R-Pharm and Sanofi-Aventis; SAJ reports non-financial support from CESAS Medical during the conduct of the study; personal fees from CESAS Medical, Eleven Biotherapeutics, grants and personal fees from Roche Pharmaceuticals, personal fees and other from Genentech, grants and personal fees from Glaxo-Smith-Kline, Chugai Pharmaceuticals, Ferrin Pharmaceuticals, Regeneron/Sanofi, grants, personal fees and non-financial support from NovImmune AG, outside the submitted work; IM reports grants from Roche and Refereron, during the conduct of the study; grants and personal fees from Abbvie, Astra Zeneca, Celgene, GSK, Janssen, Lilly, Novartis, Pfizer, Roche, grants and personal fees from Refereron, outside the submitted work; JS reports grants from Abbvie, Astra-Zeneca, Janssen, Lilly, MSD, Pfizer, Roche, personal fees from Abbvie, Amgen, Astra-Zeneca, Astro, BMS, Celgene, Celltrion, Chugai, Gilead, Glaxo, ILTOO, Janssen, Lilly, Medimmune, MSD, Novartis-Sandoz, Pfizer, Roche, Samsung, Sanofi, UCB during the conduct of the study; TT reports grants, personal fees and other from Astellas Pharma Inc, Abbvie GK, Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Co, grants and personal fees from Bristol–Myers KK, Chugai Pharmaceutical Co Ltd, Daiichi Sankyo Co, Ltd, Pfizer Japan Inc, grants from Takeda Pharmaceutical Co, Ltd, Teijin Pharma Ltd, Asahikasei Pharma Corp, Eisai Co Ltd, AYUMI Pharmaceutical Corporation, grants and other from Taisho Toyama Pharmaceutical Co Ltd, Nipponkayaku Co Ltd, other from Astra Zeneca KK., Eli Lilly Japan KK, Novartis Pharma KK, Janssen Pharmaceutical KK, outside the submitted work; The participants/authors received personal fees for their participation in the round table.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Correction notice Minor typographical errors have been corrected since first published.

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