Tocilizumab, an antibody that blocks the interleukin-6 receptor (IL6R), is a medication that is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis are at an increased risk for heart disease. Can this medication reduce the risk of heart disease as well? A genetic study tried to answer this question.
Interleukin 6 (IL6) is a mediator of inflammation that brings about its effect by acting on IL6R. A high level of IL6 has been found to be associated with an increased risk for heart disease. Thus, blocking the effect of IL6 with tocilizumab could probably reduce the risk for heart disease.
AdvertisementThe effects of tocilizumab on the heart in patients with rheumatoid arthritis are not yet known. It has been found to increase good as well as bad cholesterol levels; the final consequence of this effect is again not known.
Researchers studied the effects of tocilizumab on the heart through genetic studies. Data was obtained from nearly 40 studies using tocilizumab in humans in comparison to placebo.
The researchers found that the IL6R pathway was strongly associated with heart disease. People with a genetic variant of IL6R called IL6R rs7529229 were associated with reduced risk for developing heart disease.
Thus, blocking of IL6R with tocilizumab could probably reduce heart disease by resulting in a situation similar to that seen in patients with the IL6R rs7529229 variant.
The effect on lipid levels in people with IL6R rs7529229 variant and people taking tocilizumab were not the same. In fact, IL6R rs7529229 variant individuals did into show any changes in lipid levels. Though multiple explanations have been offered by the researchers, the exact reason for this difference is not known.
The researchers thus suggest that blocking the IL6 pathway could be a novel target for medications that aim to reduce the risk for heart disease.
1. The interleukin-6 receptor as a target for prevention of coronary heart disease: a mendelian randomisation analysis; The Interleukin Receptor Menedelian Consortium: The Lancet Online Publication 2012
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