- We investigated the antitumor effects of human recombinant interleukin-6 (hrIL-6) on the highly metastatic B16 melanoma clone F10.9. These tumor cells were found to have very low levels of IL-6 receptors and in vitro IL-6 had no effect on cell proliferation or on the expression of MHC class I antigens. However, in vivo IL-6 was active against the metastatic growth of this tumor in mice, presumably through indirect immune effects. Low-dose IL-6 (1-10 micrograms/day), in three daily injections, 4 days a week, for 3 weeks, strongly inhibited the formation of experimental lung metastases following intravenous tumor cell inoculation. IL-6 therapy could be started even 10 days after tumor injection, when metastases are already established. Moreover, IL-6 treatment of mice bearing F10.9 tumors in the footpads resulted in complete protection against pulmonary spontaneous metastasis and in long-term survival. Histology confirmed the absence of micrometastases in most of the IL-6-treated animals. Analysis of the cytolytic activity of splenocytes at different times during therapy of tumor-bearing mice revealed significant lysis (up to 42%) of the melanoma F10.9 cells in the mice receiving IL-6 but not in the control mice.