Although IFN-alpha is commonly used as maintenance treatment for multiple myeloma patients, its effectiveness is varied. In this study, we have used a panel of IL-6 responsive myeloma cell lines that vary remarkably in responsiveness to IFN-alpha. Three cell lines were growth arrested by IFN-alpha; however, IFN-alpha significantly stimulated growth of the fourth cell line, KAS-6/1. Our studies have focused on elucidating the mechanism of differential IFN-alpha responsiveness. First, we have shown that IFN-alpha-stimulated growth of the KAS-6/1 cells did not result from induction of autocrine IL-6 expression. Second, analysis of Stats 1, 2, and 3 and IFN regulatory factor-1 (IRF-1) and IRF-2 activation failed to reveal differences between the IFN-alpha growth-arrested or growth-stimulated cells. Third, although IFN-alpha treatment of the IFN-alpha growth-inhibited cell lines reduced IL-6 receptor (IL-6R) expression, IFN-alpha also reduced KAS-6/1 IL-6R expression. Finally, although IFN-alpha treatment reduced IL-6R numbers on each cell line, analysis of Stat protein activation revealed that the receptors were still functional. We conclude that myeloma cell responsiveness to IFN-alpha is heterogeneous and that mechanisms of IFN-alpha-mediated growth inhibition other than IL-6R downregulation must exist in myeloma. Identification of these mechanisms may allow development of agents that are more universally effective than IFN-alpha.
D F Jelinek, K M Aagaard-Tillery, B K Arendt, T Arora, R C Tschumper, J J Westendorf