Intratumoral injection of interleukin-2 augments the local and abscopal effects of radiotherapy in murine rectal cancer

Cancer Sci. 2011 Jul;102(7):1257-63. doi: 10.1111/j.1349-7006.2011.01940.x. Epub 2011 Apr 27.


Recent studies have suggested that tumor shrinkage in response to radiotherapy (RT) is greatly dependent on the host immune response. A Balb/c mouse model of simultaneous subcutaneous tumor and liver metastasis of Colon26 was prepared and, after irradiation of the subcutaneous tumor (2 Gy × 5 day × 2 cycles), interleukin-2 (IL-2) (2 × 10(4) U) was injected intra-tumorally, and the fate of both the subcutaneous tumor and liver metastatic lesions was evaluated. Intratumoral injection of IL-2 greatly enhanced the anti-tumor effects of RT and completely eradicated the established subcutaneous tumor. Interestingly, although RT was given locally to the subcutaneous tumor, liver metastasis formation was also inhibited in mice receiving only local RT. More impressively, the combination of RT + IL-2 completely inhibited liver metastasis formation. Splenocytes in mice receiving RT + IL-2 contained a higher percentage of CD4(+) T cells, but lower percentages of CD4(+)CD25(+) regulatory T cells and CD11b(+) Gr-1(+) myeloid-derived suppressor cells. Immunohistochemical investigation of human rectal cancer revealed that the density of CD8(+) cells infiltrating into irradiated rectal tumor was positively associated with a lower frequency of distant metastasis as well as histological response grade. Local administration of IL-2 not only enhances shrinkage of the irradiated tumor itself, but can also suppress the development of distant metastasis located outside the RT field, possibly though the induction of a systemic T cell response. Augmentation of T-cell-mediated antitumor immunity during RT might be critical for improvement of the clinical efficacy of neoadjuvant RT for the treatment of advanced rectal cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Female
  • Injections, Intralesional
  • Interleukin-2 / administration & dosage*
  • Liver Neoplasms, Experimental / secondary
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Rectal Neoplasms / immunology
  • Rectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Rectal Neoplasms / radiotherapy*


  • Interleukin-2