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IL-2 with radiotherapy: an effective treatment for late-stage nasopharyngeal carcinoma

Jacobs JJL et al. (2005) Treatment of stage III–IV nasopharyngeal carcinomas by external beam irradiation and local low doses of IL-2. Cancer Immunol Immunother 54: 792–798

A recent paper by Jacobs et al. from the Utrecht Medical Centre in The Netherlands provides the first clinical evidence, to the authors' knowledge, that local interleukin-2 (IL-2) therapy in combination with radiotherapy is an effective treatment for late-stage nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC).

In this case–control study, 10 cases with TNM stage III–IV NPC were treated with 7,000 cGy external beam irradiation over 7 weeks, and intratumoral injection of 3 × 104 IU IL-2 on 5 consecutive days in weeks 2, 4, and 6 of radiotherapy. Each case was compared with two historical controls from hospital records, matched for their TNM status, who had undergone radiotherapy only. Patients were all male, with a mean age of 54 years. After 5 years' follow-up, the censored disease-free survival in the IL-2 group (63%) was significantly greater than that of the control group (8%) (P = 0.014). In addition, the incidence of tumor recurrence was significantly reduced in the patients treated with IL-2 (42%) versus the control patients (92%) (P = 0.03).

The authors conclude that radiotherapy combined with intratumoral administration of IL-2 in patients with late-stage NPC is a novel and effective treatment for this aggressive malignancy. They recommend that a randomized, prospective phase III clinical trial be initiated to further investigate these findings.


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King, A. IL-2 with radiotherapy: an effective treatment for late-stage nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Nat Rev Clin Oncol 2, 486 (2005).

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