• lung cancer;
  • survival;
  • Interleukin-6;
  • prognostic factor


Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide as well as in Taiwan. Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a multifunctional cytokine and has been implicated in tumor progression. This study recruited 245 patients with advanced (Stage 3B/4) nonsmall cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that had received chemotherapy, to evaluate associations between IL-6 and lung cancer-specific survival. Among these subjects, 112 gave blood samples before and 133 after the start of chemotherapy. Plasma IL-6 was measured using an enzyme linked-immunosorbent assay. The 33rd and 66th percentiles of IL-6 concentrations were 2.01 and 25.16 for the 245 patients and were defined as the cutoff points for dividing the patients into low, intermediate and high groups. Kaplan-Meier and Cox proportional-hazard models were used to evaluate the relationship between the IL-6 level and survival time. Results after adjusting for age, sex, smoking history, histologic type and stage of lung cancer revealed a significant relationship. For all patients, the hazard ratio with high IL-6 levels for lung cancer-specific survival was 2.10 [95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.49 − 2.96] compared with low IL-6 levels. The hazard ratio for patients who were recruited before and after the start of chemotherapy was1.25 (95% CI = 0.73 − 2.13) and 3.66 (95% CI = 2.18 − 6.15), respectively. Patients with high circulating IL-6 also responded poorly to chemotherapy. Therefore, a high level of circulating IL-6 was associated with an inferior response and survival outcome in NSCLC patients treated with chemotherapy.