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Brand names:


Other names:

Aldesleukin, IL-2, T-Cell Growth Factor

Often used for:

Neuroblastoma, Melanoma

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About Interleukin-2

Interleukin-2 (IL-2) is a type of immunotherapy called a biologic therapy. This medicine is similar to a substance that the body naturally makes. IL-2 works by activating cells of the immune system to fight cancer.

Patients will have regular blood draws to check blood counts and monitor kidney and liver function. Blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, and temperature may be monitored to watch for infusion-related side effects.

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Given as a liquid into a vein by IV

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Possible Side Effects

  • Flu-like symptoms (fever, chills, headache)
  • Flushing, redness, or rash
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mouth sores
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Confusion or memory problems
  • Feeling dizzy or drowsy
  • Runny nose
  • Weight gain
  • Pain or swelling at the injection site
  • Low blood counts (may cause increased risk of infection, bleeding, anemia and/or fatigue)
  • High blood sugar levels
  • Increased heart rate
  • Liver problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Capillary leak syndrome: Symptoms include low blood pressure, abnormal heartbeat, chest pain, shortness of breath, unusual weight gain, confusion, blood in the urine or being unable to pass urine

Not all patients who take interleukin-2 will experience these side effects. Common side effects are in bold, but there may be others. Please report all suspected side effects to your doctor or pharmacist.

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Tips for Families

Be sure to discuss these and other recommendations with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Medicines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) and acetaminophen (Tylenol®) may be recommend to help prevent flu-like symptoms.
  • Anti-nausea and/or anti-diarrhea medicines may also be prescribed.
  • An antacid may be prescribed to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding or ulcer.
  • Sexually active patients should take steps to prevent pregnancy during treatment.
  • Patients should tell their doctor if they are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Interleukin-2 resources