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National Cancer Institute – Tocilizumab

Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a cytokine that has a range of biological effects on immune cells, as it regulates immune responses, hematopoiesis, and inflammation. When trauma or infection occur, IL-6 is actively synthesized in order to help the body respond to them. However, excessive production of IL-6 is known to produce various complications and chronic immune-mediated disorders [1].

Tocilizumab is a humanized anti-interleukin-6 receptor monoclonal antibody that can block excessive IL-6 production, thus mitigating rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and Castleman disease. As COVID-19 involves a “cytokine storm”, it is hypothesized based on recent case reports that the application of tocilizumab can improve outcomes of patients with this disease [2, 3].

The National Cancer Institute in Naples has initiated TOCIVID-19, a multicenter, single-arm, open-label, Phase 2 study in 330 participants with COVID-19 pneumonia and a parallel observational cohort study to see if tocilizumab can increase survival [4]. The primary completion date is December 2020, while full study results are expected in December 2022.


  1. Kang, S., Tanaka, T., & Kishimoto, T. (2015). Therapeutic uses of anti-interleukin-6 receptor antibody. International immunology, 27(1), 21-29.
  2. First case of COVID-19 in a patient with multiple myeloma successfully treated with tocilizumab
  3. Tocilizumab, an anti-IL6 receptor antibody, to treat Covid-19-related respiratory failure: a case report
  4. Multicenter Study on the Efficacy and Tolerability of Tocilizumab in the Treatment of Patients With COVID-19 Pneumonia (TOCIVID-19)