Novel gamma-chain cytokines as candidate immune modulators in immune therapies for cancer

Natasha M. Fewkes, Crystal L. Mackall

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Cytokines that signal through the common-gamma chain are potent growth factors for T cells and natural killer cells. Interleukin (IL)-2, the γc prototype, can mediate antitumor effects as a single agent or in the context of multimodality regimens but is limited by side effects and a propensity for expansion of regulatory T cells. IL-7, IL-15, and IL-21 each possess properties that can be exploited in the context of immunotherapy for cancer. Each has been demonstrated to mediate potent vaccine adjuvant effects in tumor models, and each can enhance the effectiveness of adoptive immunotherapies. Although the overlap among the agents is significant, IL-7 is uniquely immunorestorative and preferentially augments reactivity of naive populations, IL-15 potently augments reactivity of CD8+ memory cells and natural killer cells, and IL-21 preferentially expands the inflammatory Th17 subset and may limit terminal differentiation of effector CD8+ cells. Clinical trials of IL-7 and IL-21 have already been completed and, so far, demonstrate safety and biologic activity of these agents. Clinical trials of IL-15 are expected soon. Ultimately, these agents are expected to be most effective in the context of multimodal immunotherapy regimens, and careful clinical trial design will be needed to efficiently identify the proper doses, regimens, and settings in which to exploit their biologic properties for therapeutic gain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)392-398
Number of pages7
JournalCancer Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer immunotherapy
  • Gamma c cytokines
  • IL-15
  • IL-21
  • IL-7

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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