The Developing World of IL-2 Cancer Treatment

By: Yona Berzon  |  October 21, 2021

By Yona Berzon

With a recent $50 million Series A funding round, biotech company Tentarix is working to develop antibody-based oncology and autoimmune disease treatments. Tentarix is one of many biotech companies focusing on the development of IL-2 treatments. 

IL-2 treatments are cytokine immunotherapy treatments that harness Interleukin-2, a cytokine with pleiotropic effects on the cellular immune system; they are the first effective immunotherapy for human renal and metastatic cancers. With the relatively recent discovery of cytokines as a treatment, there’s been a great focus on the development in the IL-2 arena, bringing it to the forefront of the science-technology landscape. 

Cytokines are proteins involved in controlling blood cells and the cellular immune system, binding to cell receptors for regulating cell development, survival, and functions. Cytokines are key to the newest forms of cancer treatments as part of their mechanism of action includes anti-cancer activities via chemical signaling to initiate abnormal cell death and increasing the life span of normal cells. IL-2, a subset of the cytokines, specifically interacts with white blood cells to encourage more rapid cell growth and division in the immune system. 

Scientists observed the effectiveness of IL-2 treatments in combination with other cancer therapies in the treatment of metastatic cancer, or cancer that has spread throughout the body. With its effects on the immune system discovered in 1976, and FDA approval received in 1992 and 1996, IL-2 is an early candidate in the development of immunology treatments for cancer. IL-2 treatments have also been studied as monotherapies (which means looking at their effectiveness as stand-alone treatments) when given in more aggressive dosages than when used in combination with other therapies. Such usage has proved not to be favorable in cancer patients’ survival rates as compared to combining IL-2 treatments with other immunotherapies such as combining IL-2 treatments with monoclonal antibodies.

 Conclusively, the future of cytokine and interleukin research is being directed toward understanding its usage as a stand-alone treatment versus in combination with other treatment options to find the most successful version for patient survival. It is widely understood that in usage as a monotherapy, IL-2 is successful in tumor regression, but causes adverse effects when administered in high dosages. Future research will focus on better understanding immune responses to IL-2 therapies improving efficacy, reducing toxicity, mutants, half-life improvement, and identifying biomarkers. 

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