Background The prognosis of patients with Ewing sarcoma (ES) has improved over the course of the last decades. However, those patients suffering from metastatic and recurrent ES still have only poor chances of survival and require new therapeutic approaches. Interleukin-6 (IL6) is a pleiotropic cytokine expressed by immune cells and a great variety of cancer cells. It induces inflammatory responses, enhances proliferation and inhibits apoptosis in cancer cells, thereby promoting chemoresistance. Methods We investigated expression of IL6, its receptors and the IL6 signal transduction pathway in ES tumor samples and cell lines applying reverse transcriptase PCR, immunoblot and immunohistochemistry. The impact of IL6 on cell viability and apoptosis in ES cell lines was analyzed by MTT and propidium iodide staining, migration assessed by chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) assay. Results Immunohistochemistry proved IL6 expression in the stroma of ES tumor samples. IL6 receptor subunits IL6R and IL6ST were expressed on the surface of ES cells. Treatment of ES cells with rhIL6 resulted in phosphorylation of STAT3. rhIL6 protected ES cells from serum starvation-induced apoptosis and promoted migration. IL6 blood serum levels were elevated in a subgroup of ES patients with poor prognosis. Conclusions These data suggest that IL6 contributes to ES tumor progression by increasing resistance to apoptosis in conditions of cellular stress, such as serum starvation, and by promotion of metastasis.