The signal transducers and activators of transcription 3 (STAT3) signaling pathway plays important roles in oncogenesis, angiogenesis, immunity, and tumor cell invasion. In the present study, we investigated the association of interleukin (IL)-6/STAT3 signaling pathway with T lymphocytes and clinical implication in patients with gastric cancer.
Seventy one patients who underwent gastrectomy due to gastric adenocarcinoma were studied. Blood samples were collected before and after surgical gastrectomy to quantify the levels of IL-6, IL-10 and VEGF using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, as well as T lymphocyte subsets (CD3+, CD4+, CD8+, CD4+/CD8+) and natural killer (NK) cells by a flow cytometry. Furthermore, the expression of IL-6, survivin, STAT3, STAT3 phosphorylation (p-STAT3), and VEGF were determined in human gastric cancer and adjacent normal mucosa through Western blot and immunohistochemistry.
Postoperative levels of IL-6, IL-10 and VEGF in serum were significantly lower than preoperative levels. Percentages of T-cell subsets and NK cells in blood were significantly increased after postoperative-week 1 as compared to preoperative group, which was further augmented at 1 month after gastrectomy. In addition, the expression of IL-6, survivin, STAT3, p-STAT3, and VEGF were increased in human gastric cancer tissues as compared to adjacent normal mucosa. Their expression was associated with TNM stage of gastric cancer. The level of STAT3 activation in clinical samples was correlated with IL-6 expression. All gastric tumor samples, which expressed p-STAT3, also expressed IL-6 with weak expression detected in adjacent normal mucosa.
Increased IL-6-induced activation of STAT3 was observed in neoplastic gastric tissue, which positively correlated with tumor progression. Moreover, IL-6 and STAT3 downstream signals such as IL-10 and VEGF were reduced in patients after removal of gastric cancer as compared to pre-operation. Therefore, inhibition of the IL-6/STAT3 signaling pathway may provide a new therapeutic strategy against gastric cancer.