An Italian discovery: IL-12 kills myeloma cells

Vittorio (grazie!; for info in Italian, please see told me about an interesting discovery made recently by a team of Italian researchers at the Istituto G. Gaslini in Genoa: interleukin 12 or IL-12 inhibits the proliferation of multiple myeloma in two ways, as we will see below.


But first, what is IL-12? It’s a cytokine or a sort of hormone that is naturally produced by our body, On an Italian scientific website ( I read that it is responsible for regular communication between cells and has various effects on the immune system. Among other things (I read elsewhere), it is closely linked to the activities of T cells and NK (natural killer) cells and also has anti-angiogenic effects.


A few years ago the same group of researchers demonstrated that B cells possess an IL-12 receptor consisting of two parts—part 1 and 2. This laid the basis for their most recent discovery, published in the May 12 2008 issue of “Blood” (see abstract: part 2 is absent in B-cell lymphomas and leukaemias. Aha! And, get this!, cancer cells proliferate in the absence of part 2.


In order to demonstrate the direct relationship between IL-12 and tumour progression, the Genoa researchers examined cells taken from myeloma patients and tumour cells injected into mice without immune systems. Their tests showed, and I would like to highlight FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER!, that IL-12 strongly (!) inhibits myeloma progression: 1. it blocks the process of angiogenesis (that is, the formation of blood vessels that feed tumours) and 2., yippee!, it also induces the apoptosis (programmed cell death) of myeloma cells.


I don’t know what the next step will be, but it seems that the point would be to reintroduce that missing bit of IL-12 (that is, part 2) somehow…if at all possible. This may not turn out to be a “cure” for myeloma (I found no mention of its ability to target myeloma stem cells…), but, if it can kill some of the blasted circulating cells, well, that would be a good starting point…


  1. Margaret-

    Are there everyday sorts of ways of increasing the amount of il-12 in one’s body? Nutrition, supplementation, etc?

    David Emerson

  2. Hi David, that’s a very good question…but I have no answer. My parents arrive tomorrow from the U.S., so I am busy busy busy with a million things, but when things have settled down a bit I will look into the matter. My instinct tells me “no,” but it could be wrong!
    Take care,
    Margaret 🙂

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