The cellular immune defect in untreated Hodgkin's disease (HD) has long been recognized. This defect appears to be responsible for at least some of the morbidity and ultimately the mortality associated with the disease. In recent years, many studies have shown that the T cell component of the immune response is the apparent site where the defect in HD exists and where the immunoregulatory abnormalities that may account for the deficit are observed. The discovery of the lymphokines and monokines, comprising the human interleukin system, has elucidated some aspects of the regulatory control of the functional pathways involved in T lymphocyte activation and proliferation. The interleukin system can therefore provide the framework to dissect immunodeficiency states, such as that seen in HD. The present study indicates that HD patients' interleukin 1 (IL1) response appears to be normal, as is their T cell proliferative response to exogenous IL2. Interleukin 2 production by HD patients' peripheral blood mononuclear cells, however, is decreased when compared with age/sex-matched controls. The inability to generate IL2 after appropriate stimulation may reflect either a primary cellular defect or a regulatory defect, such as excessive immunosuppression, giving rise to the characteristic T cell hyporesponsiveness seen in HD.

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