Prevention by L-carnitine of interleukin-2 related cardiac toxicity during cancer immunotherapy

Tumori. 1993 Jun 30;79(3):202-4. doi: 10.1177/030089169307900309.


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.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cardiomyopathies / chemically induced*
  • Cardiomyopathies / prevention & control
  • Carnitine / administration & dosage
  • Carnitine / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Heart Diseases / complications*
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Interleukin-2 / administration & dosage
  • Interleukin-2 / adverse effects*
  • Interleukin-2 / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*


  • Interleukin-2
  • Carnitine