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Immunotherapy Kidney Cancer Treatment

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Apr 12, 2012
4.8 / 5(4 Ratings)

Immunotherapy or biologic therapy is beneficial in boosting body's immune system. An improved immune system is necessary to fight or destroy cancerous cells. Few years ago,, immunotherapy was considered the most common first-line therapy to treat kidney cancer at an advanced stage, though it may be helpful for some people even today. Doctors have stopped giving biologic therapy as it causes several side-effects. Those cancer cases in which other treatment therapies fail to give results, immunotherapy is used.


The main immunotherapy drugs used in kidney cancer are cytokines (proteins that activate the immune system). Two types of cytokines namely, interleukin-2 (IL-2) and interferon-alpha are most often used in immunotherapy treatment.  These cytokines reduce the size of the cancerous tissue and bring it to half of the original size in about 10% to 20% of patients. Patients, who are treated with IL-2, have reportedly shown durable responses, but only a small percentage of patients respond to interleukin treatment. Below is the information on interleukin-2 (IL-2) and interferon-alpha:

  • Interferon-Alpha: it is a type of protein that  occurs naturally in the body. It slows or blocks the division of the cancer cells making the immune system resistant to the cancer cells. In immunotherapy kidney cancer treatment, interferon-alpha is given by injection. These injections can be self-administered.
  • Interleukin-2: it is also a natural protein that facilitates the stimulation of development of immune cells and makes them resistant to cancerous cells. This drug is usually prescribed to patients of metastatic kidney cancer.


The possibility of combining small doses of both the types of cytokines and the effect of this on kidney treatment is also tested. Earlier doctors believed that this combination was competently effective as high dose of interleukin, but recent studies discarded this idea. It is a common belief among doctors that high dose of IL-2 has better chances of diminishing the cancerous tissue. High dose of IL-2 causes severe side-effects and therefore, it is only under certain conditions that it must be consumed. Some side-effects of IL- 2 are:

  • Extreme tiredness.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Fluid build-up in the lungs.
  • Breathlessness.
  • Kidney damage.
  • Heart attacks.
  • Intestinal bleeding.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Fever and chills
  • Fast heart beat.
  • Mental changes.


The above mentioned side-effects are chronic and  rarely fatal. For people with severe stage of cancer, cytokine therapy is avoided as it affects a person’s overall health. For cytokines treatment, it is better to consult a specialised doctor.

 

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