In 1998, high-dose interleukin-2 (IL-2) was the first immunotherapy approved for the treatment of metastatic melanoma based on durable objective responses documented in a subset of patients but widespread utilization was limited by significant toxicity. Advances in targeted therapy and the emergence of T cell checkpoint inhibitors, which can generally be given in the ambulatory setting, have further limited consideration of IL-2 for melanoma patients and the role of IL-2 in the current landscape of melanoma treatment is uncertain. Areas covered: In this review, we will describe advances in clinical diagnostic and management strategies that have improved the therapeutic window for IL-2 therapy in patients with melanoma. Further, we will describe the potential for using IL-2 in patients whose disease has progressed after other interventions or as part of combination immunotherapy approaches that are now in clinical development. We will also review the common toxicities of IL-2 therapy and their current management will be discussed. Expert opinion: High-dose IL-2 remains an important option for patients with melanoma and has an improved therapeutic window in the contemporary era. The reasons why IL-2 is not utilized more frequently and measures for enhancing its use will be detailed.
Keywords: Immunotherapy; interleukin-2; melanoma; safety.