Challenges and developing solutions for increasing the benefits of IL-2 treatment in tumor therapy

Expert Rev Clin Immunol. 2014 Feb;10(2):207-17. doi: 10.1586/1744666X.2014.875856.


Interleukin-2 (IL-2) is a cytokine with pleiotropic effects on the immune system. Systemic IL-2 treatment has produced durable responses in melanoma and renal cancer patients, but unfortunately this is effective only in a fraction of patients. Moreover, IL-2 treatment also engenders serious side effects, which limit its clinical utility. It is now appreciated that IL-2 not only stimulates NK and effector T cells but also has a critical role in the generation and maintenance of regulatory T cells, which act to dampen immune responses. Thus, successful immunotherapy of cancers using IL-2 has to address two fundamentally important issues: (1) how to limit side effects yet be active where it is needed, and (2) how to preferentially activate effector T cells while limiting the stimulation of Tregs. Strategies are now being developed to address these critical obstacles that may lead to a renaissance of IL-2 therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Interleukin-2 / immunology
  • Interleukin-2 / therapeutic use*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2 / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Interleukin-2
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2