Administration of interleukin-2 (IL-2) results in increased plasma concentrations of IL-5 and eosinophilia in patients with cancer

C. Van Haelst Pisani, J. S. Kovach, H. Kita, K. M. Leiferman, G. J. Gleich, J. E. Silver, R. Dennin, J. S. Abrams

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86 Scopus citations


Peripheral eosinophilia is almost invariably observed during the course of interleukin-2 (IL-2) therapy and is frequently accompanied by the development of a capillary leak syndrome characterized by edema, weight gain, and oliguria. We studied five patients with advanced malignancy treated with IL-2. Eosinophilia was not present initially but developed in all patients late in the course of therapy, with counts ranging from 2,328/mm3 to 15,958/mm3. In all patients, there was a temporal relationship between the infusion of IL-2 and the appearance of elevated plasma concentrations of IL-5, a growth factor for eosinophils. Granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor was not detectable in plasma. IL-4 and γ-interferon plasma levels were variably elevated. Plasma concentrations of major basic protein, a toxic eosinophil granule protein, began increasing before eosinophil counts increased. By the time of the third IL-2 infusion, high concentrations of major basic protein were present in all five patients (up to 5,600 ng/mL) and skin biopsies showed major basic protein deposition in the dermis. Four patients developed significant capillary leak syndrome and all of these patients showed markedly elevated major basic protein levels. The lowest peak plasma concentration of major basic protein (1,751 ng/mL) was observed in the one patient who did not develop edema and weight gain. These results suggest that IL-2 induces IL-5 leading to marked peripheral eosinophilia and extravascular eosinophil degranulation. The release of toxic eosinophil products at extravascular sites and in the circulation may contribute to the pathogenesis of the capillary leak syndrome complicating IL-2 therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1538-1544
Number of pages7
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Immunology
  • Hematology
  • Cell Biology


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