IL-6-PE4E is a recombinant protein consisting of interleukin-6 (IL-6) fused to a mutant form of Pseudomonas exotoxin in which four basic amino acids are changed to glutamate (PE4E). The chimeric toxin has been previously shown to specifically kill malignant hepatic, prostatic, epidermoid, and myeloma cell lines in vitro. To explore the possible clinical utility of IL-6-PE4E, particularly as an agent for ex vivo purging of marrow for autologous bone marrow transplantation (ABMT), we tested malignant cells from patients with multiple myeloma for sensitivity to this chimeric toxin. Ficoll-purified bone marrow cells were incubated with and without IL-6-toxin for 2 to 3 days. Eight of the 15 myeloma patients had cells that were sensitive to IL-6-toxin as measured by a decrease in the level of protein synthesis. Cells from five patients were very sensitive to IL-6-PE4E, with 50% inhibition of protein synthesis (ID50) achieved at or below 6 ng/mL (7 x 10(-11) mol/L). Cells from three additional patients showed moderate sensitivity, with ID50s between 30 and 140 ng/mL. The remaining seven samples showed little or no sensitivity, with ID50s greater than or equal to 400 ng/mL. Normal bone marrow cells or normal BFU-E and CFU-GM were resistant to the IL-6-toxin even at 1,000 ng/mL. Neither IL-6, IL- 2-PE4E, nor an enzymatically deficient mutant of IL-6-PE4E was cytotoxic toward the myeloma cells, indicating that the cytotoxic effect of IL-6-PE4E required the adenosine diphosphate-ribosylation function as well as the specific ligand. Our data suggest that IL-6- toxin could be effective in ex vivo marrow purging in selected multiple myeloma patients who are candidates for ABMT, and that this toxin should also be investigated further for in vivo therapy.

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