IL-2 (Proleukin) is a cytokine that promotes the proliferation, differentiation, and recruitment of T and B lymphocytes, natural killer cells, and thymocytes. Human recombinant IL-2 is designated as rIL-2. rIL-2 binds to IL-2 receptors on responsive cells and induces proliferation and differentiation of T helper cells and T cyto-toxic cells. It also can induce B-lymphocyte proliferation, activate macrophage activity, and augment the cytotoxicity of natural killer cells.

rIL-2 is administered systemically as an immunos-timulating agent in patients with AIDS and to augment specific antitumor immunity. Patients with renal cell carcinoma or melanoma have been effectively treated with rIL-2 in combination with adoptive transfer immunotherapy. The latter refers to the injection of the patient's own cytokine-activated killer cells or tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes after they reside in tissue culture for several weeks in the presence of rIL-2.

Systemic administration of rIL-2 causes fever, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and malaise. Other adverse affects include flushing, diarrhea, chills, rash, edema, symptomatic hypotension, and certain renal abnormalities. These tend to occur at increased dosage levels and are attenuated by reducing the dosage.

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