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
The 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.
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.
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