Fractionated extract of Astragalus membranaceus, a Chinese medicinal herb, potentiates LAK cell cytotoxicity generated by a low dose of recombinant interleukin-2

J Clin Lab Immunol. 1988 Aug;26(4):183-7.


Success with rIL-2 immunotherapy of human cancer appears to depend on the administration of high doses which are frequently associated with excessive toxicity. Future use of rIL-2 will require certain modifications based on the use of lower doses of rIL-2 without significant loss of antitumor efficacy. We tested in vitro the possibility of potentiating the activity of rIL-2 in terms of LAK cell generation. We hypothesized that co-incubation of LAK cell precursors with a Chinese herbal extract (F3) of Astragalus membranaceus, (an immune modulator currently under study in our laboratory), along with a low concentration of rIL-2, would generate levels of LAK cell activity equivalent to those generated by high concentrations of rIL-2 alone. We found (1) a 10-fold potentiation of rIL-2 activity manifested by tumor cell-killing activity of 80% resulting from LAK cell generation with F3 plus 100 u/ml of rIL-2 versus 76% generated by 1,000 u/ml of rIL-2 alone; (2) a significant reduction in the number of effector LAK cells required for equicytotoxic reaction following LAK cell generation with F3 plus rIL-2 compared to rIL-2 alone. We conclude that potentiation of antitumor activity mediated by rIL-2 in low concentrations is possible by the concomitant use of another immune modulator such as Astragalus membranaceus.

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / isolation & purification
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / pharmacology*
  • Astragalus propinquus
  • Cell Line
  • Chemical Fractionation
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic / drug effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Immunologic
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / isolation & purification
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-2 / pharmacology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation / drug effects*
  • Melanoma / immunology
  • Recombinant Proteins / pharmacology*


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Interleukin-2
  • Recombinant Proteins