Melanoma research

Tocilizumab unmasks a stage-dependent interleukin-6 component in statin-induced apoptosis of metastatic melanoma cells.

PMID 26020489


The interleukin (IL)-6 inhibits the growth of early-stage melanoma cells, but not metastatic cells. Metastatic melanoma cells are susceptible to statin-induced apoptosis, but this is not clear for early-stage melanoma cells. This study aimed to investigate the IL-6 susceptibility of melanoma cells from different stages in the presence of simvastatin to overcome loss of growth arrest. ELISA was used to detect secreted IL-6 in human melanoma cells. The effects of IL-6 were measured by western blots for STAT3 and Bcl-2 family proteins. Apoptosis and proliferation were measured by caspase 3 activity, Annexin V staining, cell cycle analysis, and a wound-healing assay. Human metastatic melanoma cells A375 and 518A2 secrete high amounts of IL-6, in contrast to early-stage WM35 cells. Canonical IL-6 signaling is intact in these cells, documented by transient phosphorylation of STAT3. Although WM35 cells are highly resistant to simvastatin-induced apoptosis, coadministration with IL-6 enhanced the susceptibility to undergo apoptosis. This proapoptotic effect of IL-6 might be explained by a downregulation of Bcl-XL, observed only in WM35 cells. Furthermore, the IL-6 receptor blocking antibody tocilizumab was coadministered and unmasked an IL-6-sensitive proportion in the simvastatin-induced caspase 3 activity of metastatic melanoma cells. These results confirm that simvastatin facilitates apoptosis in combination with IL-6. Although endogenous IL-6 secretion is sufficient in metastatic melanoma cells, exogenously added IL-6 is needed for WM35 cells. This effect may explain the failure of simvastatin to reduce melanoma incidence in clinical trials and meta-analyses.