In 1973, IL-6 was identified as a soluble factor that is secreted by T cells and is important for antibody production by B cells. Since its discovery more than 40 years ago, the IL-6 pathway has emerged as a pivotal pathway involved in immune regulation in health and dysregulation in many diseases. Targeting of the IL-6 pathway has led to innovative therapeutic approaches for various rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, adult-onset Still’s disease, giant cell arteritis and Takayasu arteritis, as well as other conditions such as Castleman disease and cytokine release syndrome. Targeting this pathway has also identified avenues for potential expansion into several other indications, such as uveitis, neuromyelitis optica and, most recently, COVID-19 pneumonia. To mark the tenth anniversary of anti-IL-6 receptor therapy worldwide, we discuss the history of research into IL-6 biology and the development of therapies that target IL-6 signalling, including the successes and challenges and with an emphasis on rheumatic diseases.
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