Aims and background: Cardiac toxicity has been observed during IL-2 cancer immunotherapy. Because of its trophic action on the myocardial tissue, the use of L-carnitine has been evaluated during IL-2 therapy in advanced cancer patients with clinically important cardiac diseases.
Methods: The study included 30 cancer patients, who were randomized to treatment with IL-2 alone or IL-2 plus L-carnitine (1000 mg/day orally). IL-2 was injected subcutaneously at a daily dose of 6 million IU for 5 days/week for 4-6 weeks.
Results: The percentage of cardiac complications was significantly lower in patients concomitantly treated with L-carnitine than those receiving IL-2 alone (0/15 vs 4/15; P < 0.05), whereas no difference was seen in mean creatine phosphokinase levels on study.
Conclusions: The results would suggest that L-carnitine may be used successfully to prevent cardiac complications during IL-2 immunotherapy in cancer patients with clinically relevant cardiac disorders. Since cardiac metabolism depends mainly on fatty acid oxidation, the stimulatory role of L-carnitine on fatty acid oxidation could explain at least in part its ability to prevent heart disturbances in response to IL-2 administration.