Ascitic fluid from human ovarian cancer patients often contains a large number of leukocytes along with tumor cells. Some of the recent evidence suggests that the ascitic fluid contains factors capable of inducing the growth of ovarian cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. While these factors have not yet been completely characterized, growth factors secreted by the tumor cells could influence the tumor growth by paracrine and autocrine mechanisms. Earlier, we reported that ovarian epithelial cancer cells produce macrophage colony-stimulating factor. It appears that these tumor cells produce more than one cytokine. Identifying the various products secreted by the tumor cells would provide valuable information needed to understand the biology of ovarian cancer. In the present study, evidence is provided for the first time that five different human ovarian epithelial tumor cell lines and tumor cells isolated from the ascitic fluid of four cancer patients express interleukin (IL) 1α and β genes constitutively. Production of the lymphokine was determined by analyzing the cellular RNA for IL-1-related transcripts and by immunological assays. Ovarian cancer cells also secrete another pleiotropic cytokine, IL-6, constitutively. In many systems, IL-1 induces the expression of the IL-6 gene. To determine whether the basal levels of IL-6 production are dependent on the endogenous IL-1, neutralization studies were carried out. Addition of antibodies to IL-1 did not decrease the levels of IL-6 secreted by the cancer cell lines. These results suggest that multiple cytokines are produced by ovarian cancer cells and that the endogenous IL-1 may not be directly involved in the regulation of IL-6 gene expression in these cells.

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This work was supported by grant CA-48608 from the National Cancer Institute and by funds provided by the Women's Cancer Center of the University of Minnesota.

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