GENERIC NAME: aldesleukin
BRAND NAME: Proleukin
DRUG CLASS AND MECHANISM: Aldesleukin is a man-made protein that has the same action as native human interleukin-2 (IL-2) that is used for treating cancer of the kidney and skin. Interleukins are the messengers by which white blood cells communicate with each other to coordinate inflammation and immunity. Among its actions, IL-2 increases the number and activities of certain types of white blood cells called lymphocytes, monocytes, and macrophages that are involved in inflammation and immunity. For example, lymphocytes fight viral infections, regulate the immune system, and fight cancers. The exact mechanism by which aldesleukin fights tumors is unknown. Aldesleukin in given only by injection. Aldesleukin was FDA approved in May 1992.
PRESCRIBED FOR: Aldesleukin is used in treating wide-spread (metastatic) cancer of the kidney (renal cell cancer) and skin (melanoma). It also being investigated in several other diseases including acute myelogenous leukemia, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, HIV infection, Kaposi's sarcoma, and leprosy.
SIDE EFFECTS: Aldesleukin causes side effects in almost every organ. Because of these side effects, aldesleukin only can be given to patients who are physically and mentally able to tolerate them. Most of the side effects are due to "capillary leak" which begins immediately after treatment is started. Capillary leak results in the leakage of proteins out of blood. This causes a loss of fluid from the blood, a decrease in the volume of blood, and a decrease in blood pressure. The decrease in blood pressure can be dramatic and even result in death. More than two-thirds of patients require injectable medications to treat the low blood pressure.
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