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International Journal of Rheumatology
Volume 2012, Article ID 946048, 14 pages
Review Article

Tocilizumab for the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis and Other Systemic Autoimmune Diseases: Current Perspectives and Future Directions

Department of Respiratory Medicine, Allergy and Rheumatic Diseases, Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, Suita City, Osaka 565-0871, Japan

Received 23 September 2011; Accepted 5 October 2011

Academic Editor: Jozélio Freire de Carvalho

Copyright © 2012 Atsushi Ogata and Toshio Tanaka. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Interleukin (IL)-6 is a cytokine featuring redundancy and pleiotropic activity. While IL-6, when transiently produced, contributes to host defense against acute environmental stress, continuous dysregulated IL-6 production plays a significant pathological role in several systemic autoimmune diseases. In response to the expectation that IL-6 blockade would constitute a novel therapeutic strategy for the treatment of these diseases, tocilizumab, a humanized anti-IL-6 receptor antibody, was developed. Clinical trials have verified the efficacy and the safety of tocilizumab for patients with rheumatoid arthritis, resulting in approval of this innovative biologic for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis in more than 90 countries worldwide. Pathological analyses of the effect of IL-6 on the development of autoimmune diseases and a considerable number of case reports and pilot studies have also indicated the beneficial effects of this antibody on other systemic autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus, systemic sclerosis, polymyositis, and large-vessel vasculitis.