Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a multifunctional cytokine postulated to play a central role as a growth factor for multiple myeloma (MM). We evaluated the spontaneous secretion of IL-6 in supernatants of Ficoll-Hypaque-- enriched bone marrow (BM) cultures from 35 patients with MM. The levels of IL-6 were correlated with biological and clinical characteristics of the disease. High levels of IL-6 production defined a subgroup of patients with low tumor burden as determined by lower serum beta 2- microglobulin (B2M) (P = .02) and lower percentage of myeloma cells infiltrating the bone marrow (P = .003), higher synthetic rates of monoclonal protein (P = .006), and low proliferative compartments as measured by the percentage of Ki-67--positive myeloma cells. Patients with high proliferative fractions (Ki-67--positive myeloma cells > 20%) had significantly lower levels of IL-6 when compared with patients with low proliferative fractions (P = .005). Our findings do not support IL- 6 as a major growth factor for MM, but demonstrate an association of high levels of IL-6 secretion with low tumor cell burden and low proliferative fraction.

This content is only available as a PDF.