Background: High dose interleukin-2 therapy, administered in bolus, is considered to be a reasonable treatment option in a selected group of patients with metastatic malignant melanoma.
Objectives: To present our experience using this mode of therapy in 21 patients with metastatic melanoma.
Materials and Methods: The 21 patients in our study group comprised 13 men and 8 women with a mean age of 46 years (range 29-63). Their metastatic disease was present in all extracranial sites, dermal and sub-dermal metastases being the most common (15 patients had at least one site, in addition to other locations of metastases). Patients with intracranial disease were excluded due to the poor effectivity of IL-2 at this site. Treatment comprised a course of 2 weeks of therapy with a 1 week rest interval between. Radiological and physical evaluation was performed 6-8 weeks after the first course. If a response was achieved a second course of therapy was given. Patients received up to 14 planned doses of IL-2 in each week, 720,000 lU/kg of IL-2 per dose iv. in 15 minutes. All treatments were given in the surgical ward, and only one patient was hospitalized in the intensive care unit.
Results: Of the 21 patients, one had a complete response that has lasted for 17 months and 5 patients had a partial response (range 3 months to 3 years). One patient died during treatment, and one patient who refused further treatment because of no response died a few days after completion of treatment. Prior to therapy three of the responders had received autologous vaccines with good immunological response (P=0.115). Toxic side effects were significant, but they were treated successfully with no residual damage.
Conclusions: High dose IL-2 can be administered safely in a surgical department. The response rates achieved in this series justify the use of high dose IL-2 in a selected group of patients. To improve response rates, a combination of autologous vaccines prior to high dose IL-2 may be recommended.