Transient thyrotoxicosis and persistent hypothyroidism due to acute autoimmune thyroiditis after interleukin-2 and interferon-alpha therapy for metastatic carcinoma: a case report

Am J Med. 1992 Apr;92(4):441-4. doi: 10.1016/0002-9343(92)90278-j.


A 59-year-old man with metastatic renal cell carcinoma developed symptomatic thyroid dysfunction following interleukin-2 (IL-2) and interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) therapy. Thyroid evaluation prior to this therapy revealed evidence of subclinical Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Symptomatic thyrotoxicosis, including atrial fibrillation, developed after the initial two courses of intermittent intravenous bolus therapy with human recombinant IL-2 and IFN-alpha. At 4 weeks after initiation of immunotherapy, the thyroid antimicrosomal antibody (AMA) titer rose from 1:6,400 to 1:25,600; thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin was negative. A technetium 99m-pertechnetate thyroid scan obtained while the patient was thyrotoxic showed diminished uptake in a symmetrically enlarged gland. The patient was temporarily treated with propranolol, digoxin, and quinidine. The atrial fibrillation quickly resolved, and thyrotoxicosis abated over the following 5 weeks, while the AMA titer rose further to 1:102,400. By 11 weeks after initiation of immunotherapy, hypothyroidism developed and persisted through two subsequent courses of cytokine therapy at Weeks 16 and 18. The tumor metastases partially responded to the immunotherapy. The patient has remained hypothyroid up to 27 weeks of follow-up. This case history suggests that IL-2 and IFN-alpha therapy may precipitate a fulminant autoimmune thyroiditis syndrome in a vulnerable patient with preexisting autoimmune thyroid disease.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / secondary*
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Hypothyroidism / etiology*
  • Interferon Type I / adverse effects*
  • Interferon Type I / therapeutic use
  • Interleukin-2 / adverse effects*
  • Interleukin-2 / therapeutic use
  • Kidney Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / secondary
  • Lung Neoplasms / therapy
  • Male
  • Mediastinal Neoplasms / secondary
  • Mediastinal Neoplasms / therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Thyroiditis, Autoimmune / complications*
  • Thyrotoxicosis / etiology*


  • Interferon Type I
  • Interleukin-2
  • Recombinant Proteins