The administration of interleukin-2 (IL-2) may induce complete remissions in acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) patients with a low proportion of residual bone marrow (BM) blasts. To confirm this preliminary observation, we treated 14 AML patients with advanced disease and with a residual BM blastosis that ranged between 7% and 24% with repeated 5-day cycles of high-dose recombinant IL-2 administered by daily continuous intravenous infusion. Patients who responded have been subsequently submitted to a monthly maintenance scheme with subcutaneous IL-2 at lower doses. While using this schedule and closely monitoring clinical and laboratory conditions, side effects were acceptable and no toxic deaths recorded. Eight of the 14 patients treated with high-dose IL-2 obtained a complete remission (CR). Five remain in persistent CR (four in third CR and one in fourth CR) after a median follow-up time of 32 months (14, 30, 32, 33, and 68 months, respectively). In all five patients, the IL-2-induced remission is the longest in the natural history of the disease. These findings show that IL-2 displays an antileukemic effect in AML with limited residual disease, and suggest that IL-2 should be considered a therapeutic option for resistant or relapsed AML patients.

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