The immune stimulatory cytokine interleukin-15 was recognized as one of the most promising cancer cure drug in an NIH guided review and is currently in clinical trial alone or as an adjuvant for certain types of metastatic solid tumors. IL-15 is an essential survival factor for natural killer (NK), natural killer-like T (NKT), and CD44hi memory CD8 T cells. The bioactivity of IL-15 in vivo is conferred mainly through a trans-presentation mechanism in which IL-15 is presented in complex with the α-subunit of soluble IL-15 receptor (IL-15R) to NK, NKT or T cells rather than directly interacts with membrane-bound IL-15R. With these understandings, recent studies have been focused on generating IL-15 agonists which consist of IL-15 and partial or whole of soluble IL-15R to improve its in vivo bioactivity. This minireview will summarize the key features of IL-15 as a potential cancer treatment cytokine and the most recent development of IL-15 agonists and preclinical studies. Critical milestones to translate the pre-clinical development to in-patients treatment are emphasized.
Keywords: Cancer therapy; Cytokine; Interleukin-15.