We have investigated the importance of interleukin-6 (IL-6) in promoting tumor growth and metastasis. In human primary breast cancers, increased levels of IL-6 were found at the tumor leading edge and positively correlated with advanced stage, suggesting a mechanistic link between tumor cell production of IL-6 and invasion. In support of this hypothesis, we showed that the IL-6/Janus kinase (JAK)/signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (Stat3) pathway drives tumor progression through the stroma and metastatic niche. Overexpression of IL-6 in tumor cell lines promoted myeloid cell recruitment, angiogenesis, and induced metastases. We demonstrated the therapeutic potential of interrupting this pathway with IL-6 receptor blockade or by inhibiting its downstream effectors JAK1/2 or Stat3. These clinically relevant interventions did not inhibit tumor cell proliferation in vitro but had profound effects in vivo on tumor progression, interfering broadly with tumor-supportive stromal functions, including angiogenesis, fibroblast infiltration, and myeloid suppressor cell recruitment in both the tumor and pre-metastatic niche. This study provides the first evidence for IL-6 expression at the leading edge of invasive human breast tumors and demonstrates mechanistically that IL-6/JAK/Stat3 signaling plays a critical and pharmacologically targetable role in orchestrating the composition of the tumor microenvironment that promotes growth, invasion, and metastasis.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cancer Research