This immunotherapy program is among the most promising treatments for patients with advanced kidney cancer. Interleukin-2 (IL-2) is a hormone that our bodies produce naturally. When administered as part of an immunotherapy program, IL-2 uses the body's own defense system to recognize and destroy cancer cells. Specifically, IL-2 plays a major role in immune regulation because it stimulates the proliferation of activated T lymphocytes.
Richard L. White, Jr., MD, Director of the Immunotherapy Program at the Blumenthal Cancer Center , works closely with Chris Teigland, MD, and a multi-disciplinary team in providing IL-2 treatment as part of a comprehensive care plan for patients with advanced kidney cancer. This team includes cardiologists John Cedarholm, MD and Geoffrey Rose, MD of the Sanger Clinic, and Jeff Kneisel, MD a musculoskeletal oncologist. All eligible patients are evaluated by the immunotherapy team, often including a cardiologist, who follows the patient as needed throughout treatment. Led by Dr. White, the immunotherapy team then administers IL-2 in courses during two one-week hospital stays. After the first week (cycle), the patient spends one to two weeks recovering at home, and then receives another cycle, followed by four to six weeks of recovery. Dr. White then evaluates results. If the size of the cancer is the same, or smaller, a second course is administered.
In 2002, CMC delivered 100 cycles of IL-2, making it one of the largest volume IL-2 centers in the country. After undergoing IL-2 immunotherapy for advanced kidney cancer, one in five patients will experience major tumor(s) shrinkage. Of those patients, nine to 10 percent will see their disease go away entirely; in fact, the majority of the patients in this group are cured. To put these results in perspective, before the advent of Interleukin-2 immunotherapy, no therapy offered hope of a cure for advanced kidney cancer.