Reduction of testosterone synthesis after high dose interleukin-2 therapy of metastatic cancer

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1991 Nov;73(5):931-5. doi: 10.1210/jcem-73-5-931.


We have investigated the effect of high dose iv bolus interleukin-2 (IL-2) therapy on sex hormone and adrenal steroid concentrations in six men treated for metastatic renal cell carcinoma or malignant melanoma. Blood concentrations of testosterone, 17 beta-estradiol, LH, FSH, cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and DHEA sulfate (DHEA-S) were measured before and after a 5-day course of IL-2 therapy. Cortisol levels rose and DHEA-S decreased insignificantly. DHEA declined, reaching a nadir (P less than 0.001) on day 6, and testosterone decreased significantly on day 2 and reached a nadir on day 6 (P less than 0.0001). Concentrations of both steroids then gradually rose. Estradiol rose on day 4 (P less than 0.001) and then declined. Neither LH nor FSH was affected significantly, although there was a rise in the mean level of LH after IL-2 therapy. Our results suggest that high dose IL-2 therapy in men affects both adrenal and testicular androgen production without inhibiting pituitary trophic hormone secretion. These effects of IL-2 on plasma sex steroids may be the result of cytokines stimulated by IL-2 therapy, rather than direct responses to IL-2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / blood
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / therapy*
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / analogs & derivatives
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / blood
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / blood
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Interleukin-2 / therapeutic use*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / blood
  • Kidney Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Male
  • Melanoma / blood
  • Melanoma / therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Recombinant Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Testosterone / biosynthesis
  • Testosterone / blood*
  • Time Factors


  • Interleukin-2
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Testosterone
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • Estradiol
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone
  • Hydrocortisone