DAB(389)IL-2 (ONTAK): a novel fusion toxin therapy for lymphoma

Clin Lymphoma. 2000 Sep;1(2):110-6; discussion 117. doi: 10.3816/clm.2000.n.009.


Fusion proteins are recombinant molecules that combine a targeting mechanism to a cytocidal moiety. DAB(389)IL-2 (denileukin diftitox; ONTAK), with a unique mechanism of action, is the first genetically constructed fusion protein to reach the clinic. In this molecule, the interleukin-2 (IL-2) gene is genetically fused to the enzymatically active and translocating domains of diphtheria toxin. DAB(389)IL-2 is internalized into IL-2 receptor-bearing cells by endocytosis. The ADP-ribosyltransferase activity of diphtheria toxin is cleaved in the endosome and is translocated into the cytosol where it inhibits protein synthesis, leading to apoptosis. DAB(389)IL-2 and its predecessor, DAB(486)IL-2, have shown clinical activity in a variety of diseases, including B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL), Hodgkin's disease, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and HIV infection. The highest response rates were observed in CTCL, and this became the focus of clinical trials leading to its subsequent approval by the United States Food and Drug Administration for this disease. The potential applications of DAB(389)IL-2 in lymphomas are reviewed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Diphtheria Toxin / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Immunotoxins / therapeutic use*
  • Interleukin-2 / therapeutic use*
  • Lymphoma / drug therapy*
  • Lymphoma / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2 / metabolism
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / therapeutic use*


  • Diphtheria Toxin
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Immunotoxins
  • Interleukin-2
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • denileukin diftitox