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According to a recent article published in the Annals of Oncology, inhaled interleukin-2 may halt disease progression in patients with kidney cancer that has spread to the lungs.

The kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs located on each side of the spine. The kidneys filter the blood and eliminate waste in the urine through a complex system of filtration tubules. All of the blood in the body passes through the kidneys approximately 20 times an hour. Renal cell cancer is an uncommon form of cancer that is most often characterized by the presence of cancer cells in the lining of the filtration tubules of the kidney. Advanced (metastatic) RCC refers to cancer that has spread outside the kidneys to distant locations in the body. The only agent approved for metastatic RCC is high-dose Proleukin® (interleukin-2).

One site of cancer spread in metastatic RCC is the lungs, referred to as pulmonary metastasis. Since RCC responds well to systemic (full body) interleukin-2, researchers from Israel conducted a clinical trial evaluating the effectiveness of an inhaled version of interleukin-2 in patients with pulmonary metastasis. This trial included 40 patients, 28 of whom had not received prior systemic therapy. Patients inhaled interleukin-2 three times daily. Cancer was controlled in over 57% of patients, 2.5% of whom experienced an anti-cancer response and 55% of whom experienced a disease stabilization. The average time to cancer progression was nearly 9 months. The most common side effects were cough and weakness.

The researchers concluded that inhaled interleukin-2 appears to stabilize cancer progression in patients with pulmonary metastasis from RCC. Furthermore, inhaled interleukin-2 is well tolerated. Future clinical trials evaluating inhaled interleukin-2 are warranted for pulmonary metastasis in patients with RCC. Patients with metastatic RCC with pulmonary metastasis may wish to speak with their physician about the risks and benefits of participation in a clinical trial further evaluating inhaled interleukin-2 or other promising therapeutic approaches.

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Reference: Merimsky O, Gez E, Weitzen R, et al. Targeting pulmonary metastases of renal cell carcinoma by inhalation of interleukin-2. Annals of Oncology. 2004;15:610-612.

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