Understanding Different Treatment Types: Cytokine Treatments

Cytokines are a type of protein that help facilitate communication between the body’s immune cells and regular blood cells. Cytokines are released by immune cells and can impact the growth and death of cells, along with other functions.  

How Cytokine Treatments Work

Cytokine treatments help stop the growth of cancer cells by preventing cancer from spreading to nearby tissues. They can also help immune cells target and destroy cancer cells. 

Types of Cytokine Treatments

  • Interleukin-2 (IL-2) 

    • Currently approved for patients with advanced kidney cancer and melanoma 

  • Granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) 

    • Currently approved for patients with certain types of leukemias and lymphoma 

    • Used for patients undergoing certain chemotherapy treatments who are at high risk for developing a condition called neutropenic fever

  • Interferon-alfa (IFN-alpha) 

    • Currently approved for patients with certain types of leukemias and lymphomas, kidney cancer, melanoma, and AIDS-related Kaposi’s sarcoma 

Good to Know

There are currently studies underway testing different types of cytokines and their effect on cancer. Talk to your provider regarding any available clinical trials.  

Common Side Effects 

Side effects of these drugs can vary from patient to patient. Some of the most common side effects include: 

Good to Know

Certain cytokine treatments can have rare but potentially serious adverse effects. Administration of these treatments may require you to be admitted to a hospital to have close monitoring.  

Questions for Your Doctor 

  • Am I a candidate for this type of therapy? 

  • What side effects should I expect? 

  • Will I need to be admitted to a hospital for treatment?