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Interleukins are a group of hormone-like substances produced by white blood cells. They are a type of cytokinecytokineA substance made by cells of the immune system. Cytokines allow immune system cells to communicate with each other and thus help carry out the body’s immune response (the immune system’s reaction to the presence of foreign substances in the body).. Interleukins act as messengers to regulate and stimulate the immune system. Interleukin is used to treat some cancers.

Types of interleukins

Researchers have identified over a dozen different interleukins so far. Interleukin-2 (Aldesleukin, Proleukin) is the one approved for use in cancer treatment. The other types have not yet been proven to be effective in treating cancer.

Use in cancer treatment

Interleukin-2 stimulates the growth and activity of certain immune cells that recognize and destroy cancer cells (such as lymphocytes and killer T cells).

Interleukin-2 may be used to treat:

  • advanced kidney cancer (renal cell carcinoma)
  • advanced melanoma

Interleukin-2 may be used alone and along with other biological therapy or chemotherapy drugs.

Interleukin-2 can be given as an injection into a vein (intravenously) or into tissue just under the skin (subcutaneously). The dose and frequency of injections depend on the type of cancer being treated.

For more detailed information on specific drugs, go to sources of drug information.


Researcher Dr Ming-Sound Tsao Dr Ming-Sound Tsao created a realistic lab model of lung cancer.

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Providing rides to cancer treatment

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For more than 50 years, the Canadian Cancer Society’s transportation program has enabled patients to focus their energy on fighting cancer and not on worrying about how they will get to treatment.

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