Source Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Tokyo, Japan.
BACKGROUND: Interleukin (IL)-6, a pleiotropic cytokine, is increased in various types of chronic liver disease, including chronic hepatitis C (CHC). It was reported recently that IL-6 is associated with insulin resistance, iron metabolism and interferon resistance, which may affect the outcome of antiviral treatment. In this study, we investigated the association of serum IL-6 levels with outcomes of pegylated interferon (PEG-IFN) plus ribavirin (RBV) combination therapy.
METHODS: We included 149 CHC patients and measured serum IL-6 levels at baseline and at 4, 8 and 12 weeks, and the end of treatment in 49 patients. We performed univariate and multivariate regression analyses for the association of IL-6 levels and clinical and laboratory parameters and treatment responses.
RESULTS: Serum IL-6 levels were significantly higher in CHC patients than healthy subjects. Pretreatment IL-6 levels of male patients were inversely correlated with sustained virological response (SVR) in univariate analysis (P=0.012). In male patients with SVR, serum IL-6 levels decreased significantly at 4 weeks of treatment (P=0.029) and remained significantly lower than those of non-SVR patients after 4, 8 and 12 weeks of PEG-IFN plus RBV therapy.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that baseline levels of IL-6, as well as their decrease during treatment, are correlated to outcomes of PEG-IFN plus RBV therapy in male patients. Further analyses of IL-6 may provide new strategies for difficult-to-treat CHC patients and prevention of hepatocarcinogenesis.