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Back To Vidyya Interleukin-2 (IL-2)

Information For Patients

Newly released clinical trials involving the use of IL-2 in HIV infected patients will increase the demand for information on the drug. Vidyya presents this fact sheet on IL-2 for the use of your patients.

Brand Names

Some commonly used names are:

In the U.S.

  • Proleukin
  • Aldesleukin (Generic Name)
  • Interleukin-2 and IL-2

  • Antineoplastic
  • Biological response modifier


Aldesleukin (al-des-LOO-kin) is a synthetic (man-made) version of a substance called interleukin-2. Interleukins are produced naturally by cells in the body to help white blood cells work. Aldesleukin is used to treat cancer of the kidney and skin cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

Aldesleukin causes some other very serious effects in addition to its helpful effects. Some effects can be fatal. For that reason, aldesleukin is given only in the hospital. If severe side effects occur, which is common, treatment in an intensive care unit (ICU) may be necessary. Other effects may not be serious but may cause concern. Before you begin treatment with aldesleukin, you and your doctor should talk about the good this medicine will do as well as the risks of using it.

Aldesleukin is to be administered only by or under the immediate supervision of your doctor. It is available in the following dosage form:

  • Injection (U.S.)

Before Using This Medicine

In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For aldesleukin, the following should be considered:

Allergies--Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to aldesleukin.

Pregnancy--Aldesleukin has not been studied in humans or in animals. However, because this medicine may cause serious side effects, use during pregnancy is usually not recommended.

Be sure that you have discussed this with your doctor before receiving this medicine.

Breast-feeding--It is not known whether aldesleukin passes into breast milk.

Children--There is no specific information comparing use of aldesleukin in children with use in other age groups.

Older adults--Many medicines have not been studied specifically in older people. Therefore, it may not be known whether they work exactly the same way they do in younger adults. There is no specific information comparing use of aldesleukin in the elderly with use in other age groups.

Other medicines--Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. Tell your health care professional if you are taking any other medicine.

Other medical problems--The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of aldesleukin. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:

  • Chickenpox (including recent exposure) or
  • Herpes zoster (shingles)--Risk of severe disease affecting other parts of the body
  • Heart disease or
  • Immune system problems or
  • Liver disease or
  • Lung disease or
  • Psoriasis or
  • Underactive thyroid--May be worsened by aldesleukin
  • Infection--Aldesleukin may decrease your body's ability to fight infection
  • Kidney disease--Effects of aldesleukin may be increased because of slower removal from the body
  • Mental problems--Aldesleukin may make them worse
  • Seizures (history of)--Aldesleukin can cause seizures

Proper Use of This Medicine

Dosing--The dose of aldesleukin will be different for different patients. The dose that is used may depend on a number of things, including what the medicine is being used for, the patient's weight, and whether or not other medicines are also being taken. Because this medicine can cause very serious side effects, your doctor will be watching your dose very carefully and may change it as needed. If you have any questions about the proper dose of aldesleukin, ask your doctor.

Precautions While Using This Medicine

Aldesleukin can temporarily affect the white blood cells in your blood, increasing the chance of getting an infection. It can also lower the number of platelets, which are necessary for proper blood clotting. If this occurs, there are certain precautions you can take, especially when your blood count is low, to reduce the risk of infection or bleeding:

  • If you can, avoid people with infections. Check with your doctor immediately if you think you are getting an infection or if you get a fever or chills, cough or hoarseness, lower back or side pain, or painful or difficult urination.
  • Check with your doctor immediately if you notice any unusual bleeding or bruising; black, tarry stools; blood in urine or stools; or pinpoint red spots on your skin.
  • Be careful when using a regular toothbrush, dental floss, or toothpick. Your medical doctor, dentist, or nurse may recommend other ways to clean your teeth and gums. Check with your medical doctor before having any dental work done.
  • Do not touch your eyes or the inside of your nose unless you have just washed your hands and have not touched anything else in the meantime.
  • Be careful not to cut yourself when you are using sharp objects such as a safety razor or fingernail or toenail cutters.
  • Avoid contact sports or other situations where bruising or injury could occur.

Side Effects of This Medicine

Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Some side effects will have signs or symptoms that you can see or feel. Your doctor may watch for others by doing certain tests.

Check with your doctor or nurse immediately if any of the following side effects occur:

    More common

      Fever or chills; shortness of breath

    Less common

      Black, tarry stools; blisters on skin; blood in urine; bloody vomit; chest pain; cough or hoarseness; lower back or side pain; painful or difficult urination; pinpoint red spots on skin; stomach pain (severe); unusual bleeding or bruising

Check with your health care professional as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:

    More common

      Agitation; confusion; diarrhea; dizziness; drowsiness; mental depression; nausea and vomiting; sores in mouth and on lips; tingling of hands or feet; unusual decrease in urination; unusual tiredness; weight gain of 5 to 10 pounds or more

    Less common

      Bloating and stomach pain; blurred or double vision; faintness; fast or irregular heartbeat; loss of taste; rapid breathing; redness, swelling, and soreness of tongue; trouble in speaking; yellow eyes and skin


      Changes in menstrual periods; clumsiness; coldness; convulsions (seizures); listlessness; muscle aches; pain or redness at site of injection; sudden inability to move; swelling in the front of the neck; swelling of feet or lower legs; weakness

This medicine may also cause the following side effects that your doctor will watch for:

    More common

      Anemia; heart problems; kidney problems; liver problems; low blood pressure; low platelet counts in blood; low white blood cell counts; other blood problems; underactive thyroid

Other side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:

    More common

      Dry skin; loss of appetite; skin rash or redness with burning or itching, followed by peeling; unusual feeling of discomfort or illness

    Less common

      Constipation; headache; joint pain; muscle pain

Other side effects not listed above may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your doctor.

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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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