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University of Chicago – 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 University of Chicago has initiated a Phase 2, non-randomized, single group, open-label study of low and normal doses of tocilizumab in 50 participants. The goal is to obtain proof of concept that tocilizumab is effective in decreasing signs, symptoms, and laboratory evidence of COVID-19 pneumonitis in hospitalized, non-critically ill patients with and without clinical risk factors for clinical decompensation, intensive care utilization, and death [4]. The primary completion date is July 1, 2020, while full study results are expected in December 2020.


  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. Early Institution of Tocilizumab Titration in Non-Critical Hospitalized COVID-19 Pneumonitis