Reuters Health Information (2009-10-30): IL-6 level predicts risk of hepatocellular carcinoma in women with HCV infection
IL-6 level predicts risk of hepatocellular carcinoma in women with HCV infection
Last Updated: 2009-10-30 13:30:02 -0400 (Reuters Health)
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Increasing levels of serum interleukin-6 are associated with a higher risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in women infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV), say researchers from Japan in the November 15th International Journal of Cancer.
"Our study has shown that a higher serum IL-6 level is an independent risk factor for HCC development in female chronic hepatitis C patients," Dr. Hayato Nakagawa told Reuters Health. "This finding supports the important role of IL-6 signaling in hepatocarcinogenesis."
Dr. Nakagawa and colleagues at the University of Tokyo studied the association between serum IL-6 levels and the risk of hepatocarcinogenesis in 330 chronic hepatitis C patients.
Male and female patients had significantly higher IL-6 levels than did healthy controls, the authors report.
During an average follow-up of 9.0 years, 126 patients (4.2% per person-year) developed HCC. The cumulative incidence of HCC at 5 and 10 years was significantly higher in men than in women.
Among men, the cumulative incidence of HCC did not change significantly with rising serum IL-6 level, and serum IL-6 levels did not correlate significantly with any clinical characteristic.
In contrast, the cumulative incidence of HCC among women increased with rising serum IL-6 level, and serum IL-6 levels correlated significantly with serum transaminase levels.
"These results indicate that serum IL-6 is not merely a marker of liver inflammation, but represents a certain pathological process in hepatocarcinogenesis," Dr. Nakagawa explained. "IL-6 has already been a therapeutic target in rheumatoid arthritis and Castleman disease. It is a challenge for the future to investigate whether IL-6 will become a therapeutic target of HCC development."
"Although the serum IL-6 levels provide useful information on the risk of future HCC development in female hepatitis C patients, measurement of IL-6 is expensive," Dr. Nakagawa added. "We consider that it is too early to use it in the daily clinical practice. If the female patient with chronic hepatitis C has a higher serum IL-6 level, she should be carefully followed-up by monitoring tumor markers and ultrasonography every four to six months in accordance with the degree of liver fibrosis."
Int J Cancer 2009;125:2265-2269.