Interferon and Interleukin 2
This page tells you about the biological therapies, interferon alpha and interleukin 2 (aldesleukin). There is information about
Interferon and interleukin are substances made by the body, in very small amounts. They belong to a group of body chemicals called cytokines. There are different types of interleukin.
Interferon and interleukin can boost the immune system, so doctors sometimes use man made versions to treat cancer. Because of the way it works, doctors sometimes call this type of treatment immunotherapy.
Interferon and interleukin work in several ways, including
- Interfering with the way cancer cells grow and multiply
- Stimulating the immune system and encouraging killer T cells and other cells to attack cancer cells
- Encouraging cancer cells to produce chemicals that attract immune system cells to them
Doctors use interferon alpha for several different types of cancer, particularly
You can have interferon alpha into the bloodstream through a drip (infusion). But you are more likely to have it as an injection just under the skin (subcutaneously). How often you have it depends on which type of cancer you are having treatment for. Most people have interferon 3 times a week but you can have it as a daily injection.
The video below shows you how to give an injection just under your skin (subcutaneously).
View a transcript of the video showing how to give a subcutaneous injection (opens in new window)
Interleukin 2 is also called aldesleukin (or IL2 or Proleukin). In cancer care, doctors use it most often to treat kidney cancer. It is also in clinical trials for some other types of cancer. You are most likely to have it as an injection just under the skin (subcutaneously). But you may have it into a vein, either as an injection or through a drip. How often you have interleukin 2 depends on which cancer you are being treated for.
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