IL-11 was originally identified based on its biological similarities to IL-6; these two cytokines, however, are not functionally identical. Identification and characterization of receptor components of IL-1 1R and the associated signaling molecules will be required to dissect the mechanisms responsible for cytokine specificity. IL-11 is a cytokine with a more restricted spectrum of target cells than IL-6 and this unique property may explain the minimal or no toxicity associated with IL-11 in the in vivo studies. In vivo administration of IL-11 in normal and myelosup-pressed animals has demonstrated the thrombopoietic effect of this cytokine. Phase I and II clinical trials provide further support that IL-1 1 is an important thrombopoietic agent that can be used safely in patients with severe chemotherapy-induced thrombocytopenia. Because of its immunomodulatory activity and ability to promote healing of the gastrointestinal mucosa, IL-11 may also reduce the severity of chemotherapy-induced mucositis and associated inflammatory complications. These biological activities have led to clinical trials for treatment of chemotherapy-induced mucositis and Crohn's disease. Based on its ability to enhance thrombopoiesis, protect gastrointestinal epithelial injury and reduce inflammatory complications, IL-11 therefore represents a mutifunctional cytokine that may potentially offer several benefits in cancer therapy. In addition, IL-11 is being evaluated further in the treatment of various inflammatory disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis and sepsis. Future clinical trials with IL-1 1 alone and in combination with other biologic, radiation or

Table 4 Biological effects of IL-11 in experimentally induced animal models

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