Research Is Expanding Into the Use of Interleukin-12 as an Anticancer Agent

Share this content:
Premal Thaker, MD, and Charles Leath, MD
Premal Thaker, MD, and Charles Leath, MD

Based on the development of more effective delivery technologies and advances in clinical research, the focus on interleukin-12 (IL-12) in oncology is continuing to expand.

Recent research has indicated the potential for IL-12 therapy to be effective in combination with new and emerging biologics including other immunomodulatory drugs.1-4

Interest in IL-12 is being driven further by research showing the potential for curative benefits in treatment in certain forms of cancer, potentially transforming them into chronically managed conditions.

Researchers Renewing Focus on IL-12

IL-12, a cytokine that acts as a key regulator for certain immune responses, was an important focus in oncology research in the late 1980s.5 In multiple research efforts, IL-12 was shown to have potent anticancer activity (Figures 1-2). Based on these early results, researchers advanced development programs targeting IL-12 in treatment of several human cancers including melanoma, renal carcinoma, and lymphocytic lymphoma.6

However, early clinical research also indicated that cell culture-derived recombinant IL-12 (rIL-12) therapy was associated with systemic toxicity that could lead to potentially serious adverse events and put patients at risk.7-8 In some clinical research programs, IL-12 treatment was associated with patient deaths.

Figure 1. Interleukin-12 has multiple distinct mechanisms of action that lead to tumor cell death. 


Figure 2. Interleukin-12 addresses cancer cells by recruiting the immune system, inducing powerful anti-cancer mechanisms for an immune attack. 

Analysis showed that adverse events were attributed to the therapy's short half-life and generally poor pharmacokinetics. Based on these risks, IL-12 clinical trials slowed; however, research that focused on efforts to improve pharmacokinetics and safety of IL-12 continued.

After many years of effort, researchers have reported progress in the development of alternative strategies to improve both the pharmacokinetics and safety of rIL-12 therapies based on the use of more advanced delivery mechanisms.

Of these, 3 distinct approaches have thus far reported proof-of-concept studies in experimental models. These include gene therapy approaches to IL-12 (viral or plasmid DNA approaches)9-10 and attachment of polyethylene glycol (PEG) to improve IL-12 half-life and membrane-bound IL-12.11

Page 1 of 2

Related Resources

You must be a registered member of Cancer Therapy Advisor to post a comment.

Regimen and Drug Listings

GET FULL LISTINGS OF TREATMENT Regimens and Drug INFORMATION

Bone Cancer Regimens Drugs
Brain Cancer Regimens Drugs
Breast Cancer Regimens Drugs
Endocrine Cancer Regimens Drugs
Gastrointestinal Cancer Regimens Drugs
Gynecologic Cancer Regimens Drugs
Head and Neck Cancer Regimens Drugs
Hematologic Cancer Regimens Drugs
Lung Cancer Regimens Drugs
Other Cancers Regimens
Prostate Cancer Regimens Drugs
Rare Cancers Regimens
Renal Cell Carcinoma Regimens Drugs
Skin Cancer Regimens Drugs
Urologic Cancers Regimens Drugs

Sign Up for Free e-newsletters