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A randomized phase II trial was performed to compare the efficacy and toxicity of interleukin 2 (IL-2) with an IL-2 and interferon alpha (IFN-alpha) regimen for the treatment of metastatic renal carcinoma. Sixty patients with recurrent renal cell carcinoma (RCC) who had previously undergone a nephrectomy were randomized to receive three cycles of IL-2 or IL-2 with IFN-alpha2b. Eighteen MU of IL-2 were administered subcutaneously on Mondays-Fridays for 3 weeks out of 4. Those patients randomized to receive the combination received the same regimen of IL-2 with 9 MU of IFN-alpha2b subcutaneously on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for 3 weeks out of 4. Thirty patients were randomized to receive each arm. Twenty-nine were evaluable in each arm. Twenty-two patients received three cycles of IL-2 but only 14 patients received three cycles of IL-2/IFN-alpha because of the greater toxicity of the combination. The principal toxicities included nausea, fatigue and fever. There were no complete responses in either arm and only two patients who were treated with IL-2 attained a partial response. Twelve patients in each arm had stable disease and 15 patients in the IL-2 arm and 16 patients in the IL-2/IFN-alpha arm progressed through treatment. There were no significant differences in survival. Ten patients who received IL-2 are alive with a median follow-up of 266 days, whereas six patients who received IL-2/IFN-alpha are alive after a median of 278 days. The median survival from the time of identification of metastatic disease is 444 days in the IL-2 arm and 381 days in the IL-2/IFN-alpha arm. The IL-2/IFN-alpha combination is more toxic than IL-2 alone and this resulted in a reduced number of cycles of treatment. However, the median survival of the two groups was the same, suggesting that further evaluation of the IL-2/IFN-alpha combination should be confined to large prospective randomized clinical trials.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Cancer

Publication Date





366 - 369


Adult, Aged, Carcinoma, Renal Cell, Fatigue, Female, Humans, Interferon-alpha, Interleukin-2, Kidney Neoplasms, Male, Middle Aged, Neoplasm Metastasis, Vomiting