Significance of Interleukin-6 Signaling in the Resistance of Pharyngeal Cancer to Irradiation and the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Inhibitor

Chih Cheng Chen, Wen Cheng Chen, Chang Hsien Lu, Wen Hung Wang, Paul Yang Lin, Kuan Der Lee, Miao Fen Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Tumor eradication by chemoradiotherapy for pharyngeal cancer has not been particularly successful. Targeting epithelial growth factor receptor (EGFR) could be a potential treatment strategy providing additional benefits, but only a subset of these tumors gives a clinically significant response to EGFR inhibitors. The aim has been to identify the role of interleukin-6 (IL-6) signaling and its predictive power in the treatment response of pharyngeal cancer. Methods and Materials: Human pharyngeal cancer cell lines, including the hypopharyngeal cancer cell line FaDu and its derived cell line FaDu-C225-R, were selected. Changes in tumor growth, response to treatment, and responsible signaling pathway were investigated in vitro. Furthermore, 95 pharyngeal cancer tissue specimens were analyzed by immunohistochemical staining, and correlations were made between levels of IL-6, IL-6 receptor (IL-6R), p-AKT, and p-STAT3 expression and the clinical outcome of patients. Results: In vitro, either extrinsic IL-6 stimulation of cancer cells or intrinsically activated IL-6 signaling detected in FADu-C225-R cells results in resistance to irradiation and EGFR inhibitor. Blocking IL-6 signaling attenuated aggressive tumor behavior and sensitized the cells to treatments. The responsible mechanisms included decreased p-STAT3, less nuclear translocation of EGFR, and subsequently attenuated epithelial-mesenchymal transition. Regarding clinical data, staining of p-STAT3 and IL-6 was significantly linked with lower response rates to treatments and shorter survival in pharyngeal cancer patients. Conclusions: IL-6 and p-STAT3 may be significant predictors of pharyngeal carcinoma, and regulating IL-6 signaling can be considered a promising therapeutic approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1214-1224
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Mar 15 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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