The potential and promise of IL-15 in immuno-oncogenic therapies

Immunol Lett. 2017 Oct;190:159-168. doi: 10.1016/j.imlet.2017.08.010. Epub 2017 Aug 16.


This review provides an in-depth description of the preclinical and clinical studies demonstrating the effectiveness and limitations of IL-15 and IL-15 analogs given as an exogenous immuno-oncology agent. IL-15 is a cytokine that primarily stimulates the proliferation and cytotoxic functions of CD8T cells and NK cells leading to enhanced anti-tumor responses. While initially showing promise as a cancer therapeutic, the efficacy of IL-15 was limited by its short in vivo half-life. More recently, various approaches have been developed to improve the in vivo half-life and efficacy of IL-15, largely by generating IL-15/IL-15Rα conjugates. These new IL-15 based agents renew the prospect of IL-15 as a cancer immunotherapeutic agent. While having some efficacy in inducing tumor regression as a monotherapy, IL-15 agents also show great potential in being used in combination with other immuno-oncological therapies. Indeed, IL-15 used in combination therapy yields even better anti-tumor responses and prolongs survival than IL-15 treatment alone in numerous murine cancer models. The promising results from these preclinical studies have led to the implementation of several clinical trials to test the safety and efficacy of IL-15-based agents as a stand-alone treatment or in conjunction with other therapies to treat both advanced solid tumors and hematological malignancies.

Keywords: ALT-803; Clinical trials; Cytotoxic lymphocytes; IL-15; Immunotherapy; Soluble IL-15 complexes.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Interleukin-15 / therapeutic use*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Protein Stability
  • Receptors, Interleukin-15 / metabolism


  • Interleukin-15
  • Receptors, Interleukin-15