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Clin Cancer Res. 2006 Jul 15;12(14 Pt 1):4265-73.

Clinical and biological effects of recombinant human interleukin-18 administered by intravenous infusion to patients with advanced cancer.

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Lymphoma Program, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana 46202, USA.



Interleukin-18 (IL-18) is an immunostimulatory cytokine with antitumor activity in preclinical animal models. A phase I study of recombinant human IL-18 (rhIL-18) was done to determine the toxicity, pharmacokinetics, and biological activities of rhIL-18 in patients with advanced cancer.


Cohorts of patients were given escalating doses of rhIL-18, each administered as a 2-hour i.v. infusion on 5 consecutive days. Toxicities were graded using standard criteria. Serial blood samples were obtained for pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic measurements.


Twenty-eight patients (21 with renal cell cancer, 6 with melanoma, and 1 with Hodgkin's lymphoma) were given rhIL-18 in doses ranging from 3 to 1,000 microg/kg. Common side effects included chills, fever, nausea, headache, and hypotension. Common laboratory abnormalities included transient, asymptomatic grade 1 to 2 neutropenia, thrombocytopenia, anemia, hypoalbuminemia, hyponatremia, and elevations in liver transaminases. One patient in the 100 microg/kg cohort experienced transient grade 3 hypotension and grade 2 bradycardia during the first infusion of rhIL-18. No other dose-limiting toxicities were observed. Plasma concentrations of rhIL-18 increased with increasing dose, and 2.5-fold accumulation was observed with repeated dosing. Biological effects of rhIL-18 included transient lymphopenia and increased expression of activation antigens on lymphocytes and monocytes. Increases in serum concentrations of IFN-gamma, granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor, IL-18 binding protein, and soluble Fas ligand were observed. Two patients experienced unconfirmed partial responses after rhIL-18 treatment.


rhIL-18 can be safely given in biologically active doses to patients with advanced cancer. A maximum tolerated dose of rhIL-18 was not determined. Further clinical studies of rhIL-18 are warranted.

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