Elevated tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1 (TIMP-1) is a negative prognosticator in non-small cell lung carcinoma NSCLC patients. This study sought to identify mechanisms whereby TIMP-1 impacts anticancer therapy. Using NSCLC cells and their TIMP-1 knockdown clones, we examined the chemoresistance against two chemotherapeutic agents, Gemcitabine and Cisplatin, as identified by increased apoptosis in the knockdown clones. A bead-based cytokine screening assay identified interleukin-6 (IL-6) as a key factor in chemoresistance. Exogenous human recombinant rhTIMP-1 or rhIL-6 resulted in reduced apoptosis. IL-6 expression was closely correlated with TIMP-1 kinetics and was upregulated by the addition of exogenous TIMP-1 while TIMP-1 neutralizing antibodies delayed IL-6 elevation. IL-6 production was regulated by TIMP-1, exerting its effect via activation of downstream signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) signaling. Both molecules and their documented transcription factors were upregulated and activated in chemoresistant NSCLC cells, confirming the roles of TIMP-1 and IL-6 in chemoresistance. To examine the role of these genes in patients, survival data from lung adenocarcinoma (LUAD) patients was curated from the cancer genome atlas (TCGA) database. Kaplan-Meier analysis found that individuals expressing low TIMP-1 and IL-6 have a higher survival rate and that the two-gene signature was more significant than the single-gene status. We define for the first time, a regulatory relationship between TIMP-1 and IL-6 in NSCLCs, suggesting that the TIMP-1/IL6 axis may be a valuable prognostic biomarker. Therapeutic interventions directed at this dual target may improve overall prognosis while negatively affecting the development of chemoresistance in NSCLC.
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