The effects of interleukin-6 neutralizing antibodies on symptoms of depressed mood and anhedonia in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and multicentric Castleman's disease.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Brain, behavior, and immunity (2017)


Cytokines, including interleukin-6 (IL-6), modulate neuronal plasticity and stress coping. Depressive symptoms and major depressive disorder (MDD) have been associated with changes in cytokines and their signaling. The current study examined the effect of IL-6 monoclonal antibody administration on depressive symptoms in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or multicentric Castleman's disease (MCD). The data were obtained from two phase 2, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials designed to test the efficacy of sirukumab in RA (N=176) or of siltuximab in MCD (N=65), and were analyzed post hoc to investigate the effects of these IL6 antibodies on depressive symptoms. The SF-36 questionnaire items on depressed-mood and anhedonia were combined as the measure for depressive symptoms. The study participants were grouped by the presence/absence of prevalent depressed mood and anhedonia (PDMA, meaning either depressed mood or anhedonia was present at least 'most of the time' and the other at least 'some of the time' for four weeks) at baseline; 26.1% of the RA sample and 15.4% of the MCD sample met criteria for PDMA at baseline. Compared with placebo, sirukumab and siltuximab produced significantly greater improvements on depressive symptoms. To account for an effect on mood due to changes in RA or MCD, the analysis was (1) adjusted for symptom severities using DAS28-CRP for RA and MCDOS for MCD alone or together with bodily pain and physical functioning, and (2) performed within RA and MCD non-responders. Improvement in depressive symptoms remained significant in the treated group for both drugs. The significance over placebo was also observed in the siltuximab study. The improvement in depressive symptoms by sirukumab correlated positively with the baseline soluble IL-6 receptor levels. The data together suggest that the IL-6 antibodies improve depressive symptoms in patients with RA and MCD. Further studies are needed to elucidate to what extents the IL-6 antibodies improve depression symptoms through improving primary disease dependent and independent mechanisms, especially in RA patients, and the brain mechanisms underlying depressive symptom improvements.