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Friday, May 16, 2008

Aldesleukin (Proleukin®)

This information is about the use of aldesleukin as a treatment for people with cancer. It is mainly used to treat people with a type of kidney cancer known as renal cell carcinoma, but is sometimes used to treat other types of cancer.

What is aldesleukin?

Aldesleukin is a protein produced naturally in the body in very small amounts. It is produced by a type of white blood cell called a T-lymphocyte. It works as part of the body’s defence mechanism (immune system) in fighting illness. Aldesleukin can be made commercially as a drug and is used as a treatment for cancer.

Aldesleukin can be used to treat a few different types of cancer. These include some kidney tumours and melanoma. It can be given on its own or in combination with other treatments.

Aldesleukin used to be known as interleukin-2 or IL2.

What it looks like

Aldesleukin is a colourless fluid.

How it is given

Aldesleukin is usually given as an injection under the skin (subcutaneously).

The amount of aldesleukin that occurs naturally in the body is very small, and so aldesleukin treatment greatly increases the amount in the body.

How often it is given

The length of the course of treatment, how often the injections are given and the dosage will vary according to the person’s general health and the type of cancer.

Most people have aldesleukin as outpatients.

How aldesleukin works

Aldesleukin is given to stimulate the body’s own defence mechanism to fight some types of cancer. The exact way in which it works is still not fully understood. However, it can stimulate white cells to recognise and destroy some cancer cells.

Possible side effects

Each person’s reaction to any drug is different. Some people have very few side effects while others may experience more. The side effects described below will not affect everyone taking aldesleukin. We have outlined the most common side effects. We have not included those that are very rare, however, and which are therefore unlikely to affect you. If you notice any effects that you think may be due to the drugs, but which are not listed here, please let your nurse or doctor know.

The side effects of aldesleukin usually disappear once the treatment has finished and may include any of those listed below:

Flu-like symptoms These can occur quite soon after the drug has been given and it makes some people feel quite unwell. You may have aching joints or muscles, a high temperature, a feeling of no energy (lethargy) and chills. If these symptoms do happen, it is important to drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest. Paracetamol is often prescribed to help reduce these effects.

Feeling sick (nausea) and occasionally being sick (vomiting) Your doctor can now prescribe very effective anti-sickness (antiemetic) drugs to reduce or prevent these effects. If the sickness is not controlled, or if it continues, tell your doctor or nurse. There are other anti- sickness drugs that can be prescribed.

Loss of appetite A dietitian or specialist nurse at your hospital can give advice.

Skin changes Aldesleukin may cause red or darker, dry, itching skin, which may peel or blister. Your doctor can prescribe medicine and creams to help. If you already have a skin complaint such as psoriasis, aldesleukin may make it worse.

Changes in behaviour Let your doctor know if you feel anxious, agitated or confused.

Tiredness and a general feeling of weakness It is important to allow yourself plenty of time to rest if this happens.

Your kidneys may not work as well as usual Your doctors will check how well your kidneys are working with a blood test before and during your course of treatment.

In some hospitals you will be asked to measure and record everything you drink and the amount of urine that you pass. You may be given medicine to help you pass urine if you do not pass enough.

Fluid retention You may notice that you put on weight, and/or that your face, ankles and legs swell. This improves slowly once your treatment has finished. Sometimes drugs can be given to help to reduce the swelling.

Anaemia Anaemia is a low number of red blood cells. Symptoms of anaemia include a feeling of having no energy (lethargy) and tiredness. If you feel very tired, tell your doctor or nurse.

Changes in the way your heart works and lowering of blood pressure In some people, aldesleukin can affect how the heart works. The effect on the heart depends on the dose given. The hospital team will check your blood pressure regularly during treatment. It is important to tell your doctor if you feel dizzy, faint or have any chest pain.

Additional information

Some patients having aldesleukin treatment have to stay in hospital for close monitoring. This may be needed if treatment is given at higher doses than normal, when side effects may be more severe.

Some patients give themselves aldesleukin injections at home. If this is the case, you must keep your aldesleukin in the refrigerator.


This section has been compiled using information from a number of reliable sources including:

  • Martindale: The Complete Drug Reference (35th edition). Sweetman et al. Pharmaceutical Press, 2007.
  • British National Formulary (54th edition). British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, September 2007.

For further references, please see the general bibliography.

Via: http://www.cancerbackup.org.uk

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