The effect of intravenous interleukin-2 on brain water content

S. C. Saris, N. J. Patronas, S. A. Rosenberg, J. T. Alexander, J. Frank, D. J. Schwartzentruber, J. T. Rubin, D. Barba, E. H. Oldfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Parental treatment with interleukin-2 (IL-2) is effective against certain advanced cancers outside the central nervous system. Prior to commencement of Phase II trials in patients with brain tumors, the neurological and neuroradiological features of 10 patients treated with intravenous administration of repeated doses of IL-2 were studied. Three patients had malignant gliomas, and seven patients had extracranial cancer without evidence of intracranial metastasis. All were treated with intravenous doses of 105 U/kg three times daily for up to 5 days. The patients with gliomas received cranial computerized axial tomography (CT) scans before IL-2 therapy was initiated and during the later stages of treatment. The patients with extracranial cancer underwent T2-weighted magnetic resonance (MR) imaging before and later during therapy. After two to 11 doses of IL-2, the patients with gliomas had marked neurological deterioration that was associated with a mild to marked increase in peritumoral edema and mass effect visible on CT scans. With cessation of treatment and appropriate supportive care, all returned to their pretreatment state. The patients with extracranial cancer were either neurologically unchanged or underwent minor transient changes in mental status (lethargy and confusion). In these patients, the MR signal intensity was quantified and compared in eight anatomic regions of interest. In six of the seven patients, there were increases in gray and white matter signal intensity consistent with increased cerebral water content. The percentage changes (means ± standard error of the means) were 12.6% ± 7.3% in the gray matter and 17.0% ± 6.2% in the white matter. This study demonstrates that treatment with a high parenteral dose of IL-2 is not tolerated by patients with gliomas due to increased cerebral edema. In patients with extracranial cancer but no brain disease, parenteral IL-2 induces an increase in the cerebral water content of both gray and white matter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-174
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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