Phase I/II study of topical imiquimod and intralesional interleukin-2 in the treatment of accessible metastases in malignant melanoma

Br J Dermatol. 2007 Feb;156(2):337-45. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2006.07664.x.


Background: Patients with metastatic skin disease in malignant melanoma can be difficult to treat effectively, often requiring repeated treatments with different modalities in an attempt to control their disease. Treatment of nonsurgically resectable melanoma deposits is unsatisfactory, as they are often multiple and recurring. Anecdotal evidence from individual use of imiquimod in superficial metastases and intralesional interleukin (IL)-2 in subcutaneous deposits suggests that the combination may be more effective in bulky subcutaneous disease.

Objectives: To investigate the combination of topical imiquimod and, for selected lesions, intralesional IL-2, to treat a small cohort of patients with accessible melanoma metastases resistant to other treatments.

Methods: Thirteen patients were recruited: all had evidence of multiple cutaneous and/or subcutaneous metastases. Imiquimod was applied to the metastases on a daily basis for 4 weeks, before the introduction of intralesional IL-2. This was injected up to three times a week, into selected lesions, with 0.1 mL injected per lesion at a concentration of 3.6 MIU mL(-1), a total of 1 mL being given at each session. The treated lesions were assessed individually at intervals of 3 months.

Results: Thirteen patients were treated, with 10 being eligible for assessment. In total, 182 lesions were treated: 137 purely cutaneous lesions and 41 subcutaneous lesions. Overall, a clinical response was seen in 92 lesions (50.5%) with 74 (40.7%) of these being a complete response (CR) with 91% of the CRs being in the cutaneous lesions. New lesions did appear during the treatment course; however, patients with cutaneous disease experienced a marked slowing of the appearance of new cutaneous lesions. No cutaneous lesions that responded reappeared on cessation of treatment.

Conclusions: The combination of imiquimod and IL-2 is effective in controlling this mixed cutaneous and subcutaneous disease, and is well tolerated. Imiquimod alone is often enough to elicit a response in purely cutaneous lesions. The addition of intralesional IL-2 increases the response rates in subcutaneous lesions, and in otherwise refractory cutaneous lesions.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase I
  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aminoquinolines / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imiquimod
  • Injections, Intralesional
  • Interleukin-2 / administration & dosage
  • Male
  • Melanoma / drug therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / drug therapy*
  • Ointments
  • Skin Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Aminoquinolines
  • Interleukin-2
  • Ointments
  • Imiquimod