Preoperative interleukin-6 production by mononuclear blood cells predicts survival after radical surgery for colorectal carcinoma


  • Conflict of Interest: B. Clinchy, A. Håkansson, B. Gustafsson, R. Sjödahl and L. Håkansson may have a potential conflict of interest in a future commercial application of some of the material included in this article; patent pending. The other authors declare no conflict of interest.



Colorectal cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the Western world. Staging based on histopathology is currently the most accurate predictor of outcome after surgery. Colorectal cancer is curable if treated at an early stage (stage I-III). However, for tumors in stages II and III there is a great need for tests giving more accurate prognostic information defining the patient population in need of closer follow-up and/or adjuvant therapy. Furthermore, tests that provide prognostic information preoperatively could provide a guide both for preoperative oncologic treatment and the surgical procedure.


Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were isolated preoperatively, within a week before primary surgery, from 39 patients undergoing surgery for colorectal cancer. The PBMCs were cultured in vitro for 24 hours in the presence of autologous serum and lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Interleukin-6 (IL-6) production was measured with enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Staging based on histopathology was performed in all patients. Patients were followed for at least 54 months.


A production of >5000 pg/mL of IL-6 identified colorectal cancer patients with a poor prognosis. Eight out of 13 patients with >5000 pg/mL IL-6 died from cancer within the follow-up period, whereas no cancer-related deaths were recorded among 21 patients with 5000 pg/mL IL-6 or less. A multivariate Cox regression analysis, stratified for T- and N-stage, identified IL-6 production as an independent prognostic factor.


IL-6 production in vitro by PBMC can predict survival after radical surgery for colorectal cancer. Cancer 2007. © 2007 American Cancer Society.