Inflammatory disorders, including autoimmune disease, chronic infections and cancer are characterized by over-activation of the immune system. One of the key pathways involved in inflammation is interleukin-6 receptor (IL-6R) signalling which is a therapeutic target in sepsis, rheumatoid arthritis, haematological cancers and COVID-19. Still many patients do not respond to anti-IL-6(R) treatment, and one of the problems is our limited understanding of the IL-6R multimeric protein complex. We previously discovered that the IL-6R complex is inhibited by tetraspanin CD37 in the membrane of tumor cells.
Annemiek van Spriel (Dept. of Tumor Immunology, theme cancer development and immune defense) together with Piet Gros (Dept. of Chemistry, Utrecht University) obtained a ZonMw Open Competition Grant (750K Euro) to investigate IL-6 receptor structure and signalling in tumor cells in order to develop proof-of-concept therapy of targeting tetraspanin-cytokine receptor complexes in cancer. This ZonMw project aims to deliver 1) conceptual new molecular insight into cytokine receptor complexes in cancer cells, and 2) new prospective to target tetraspanin building blocks to inhibit cancer growth and inflammation.