Interleukin-2 Immunotherapy Program

At Sentara CarePlex Hospital, the Sentara Cancer Network provides the only high-dose Interleukin – 2 (IL-2) immunotherapy program in the Eastern Virginia region. Medical oncologists lead a highly skilled, interdisciplinary team of caregivers who are trained in the care of patients with metastatic melanoma or metastatic kidney cancer.

How IL-2 Therapy Uses Your Own Immune System to Boost Your Defenses Against Cancer

Your immune system has special defense cells that sometimes help destroy cancer cells. However, metastatic disease develops when the immune system is unable to keep cancer cells from increasing and spreading.

Il-2 (also called by its brand name of Proleukin®) is an immunotherapy. That's because it can give the immune system more power to fight metastatic disease. However, not all metastatic cancer is vulnerable to attack by the immune system or the help it gets from IL-2. Even cancer that is vulnerable to immunotherapy may not necessarily be affected completely or at all by IL-2.

To be eligible for this treatment, patients who receive IL-2 must have normal heart, lung, liver and kidney function. Patients will be evaluated to determine if they are an appropriate candidate for IL-2.

To learn more, submit our contact form or call toll-free 888-220-2214.
Sentara CarePlex Hospital has a dedicated 24-bed oncology unit, which includes four universal beds that can handle high-level post-surgical and medical patients, such as IL- 2 and HIPEC® patients. The team of professionals includes chemotherapy certified, oncology certified nurses (OCNs) who care for patients at high nurse-to-patient ratios.

Details About Interleukin – 2 (IL-2) Treatment

IL-2 is an FDA-approved treatment that has been used for more than 10 years in the treatment of metastatic melanoma and more than 15 years in the treatment of metastatic kidney cancer (renal cell carcinoma).  It is the only treatment with studies that have demonstrated the potential for a complete and long-lasting response in these diseases.* IL-2 shrinks tumors in about 15 percent of patients. However, about 5 percent of patients get a complete response that can last 7 years or more.

Clinical Process:

IL-2 is a form of injection therapy administered by intravenous (IV) infusion in the hospital over 5 days, every 8 hours, not to exceed 14 doses (cycle 1). After this cycle of treatment, patients are able to go home for 9 days of rest and return to the hospital for a second cycle of 5 days of treatment. This is considered one treatment course. After this first course of treatment, you will typically receive imaging to determine if the cancer responded to the treatment. If the physician sees a positive response, you will receive a second course of treatment.

Side effects:

IL-2 can have very serious side effects, the most serious being a condition called "capillary leak" which occurs when fluids and proteins leak from the blood vessels, causing dangerously low blood pressure.
The most common side effects include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Flu-like symptoms (fever, chills, headache and muscle aches)
  • Low blood pressure
  • General pain, chest pain (angina)
  • Breathing problems due to fluid in the lungs
  • Weight gain, fluid retention
  • Mental effects (paranoia, hallucinations, insomnia)
  • Itching, peeling skin
  • Anemia  (low red blood cell count)
  • Low platelet count (increasing the risk of bleeding)
  • Low white blood cell count
  • Kidney damage
  • Mouth sores