Talk to any cancer survivor and they will proudly admit to surviving the treatment, whether radiation or chemo-therapy, which at times may feel worse than the actual symptoms of the cancer within them. Radiation therapy has long been a proven method of killing cancer cells as well as inducing a fair immune response to where it can help fight future relapses but not completely cure them. However, combine that with a compound that can strengthen the immune system and we might have a winner on our hands. Such a compound has been put forth by Ms. Nicolle Rekers of the Department of Radiation Oncology, Maastricht University Medical Center in The Netherlands. L19-IL2 (or Darleukin) is an “immunoconjugate” consisting of the recombinant form of the cytokines (a signaling molecule in the immune system) — L19 which targets the vascular system and the interleukin IL-2 (Interleukins are cytokines that are expressed in leukocytes or white blood cells). IL-2 locally activates natural killer (NK) cells and macrophages (a type of white blood cell that engulfs and digests foreign debris and cells that are a potential hazard) to induce an immune response against the expression of tumor cells.
Mice with colorectal tumors were administered with this combination therapy of radiation and L19-IL2 and were found to not only be tumor free post treatment but they did not form new tumors when re-injected with cancer cells 150 days later. The therapy also helped form an immunological memory which means that even though the tumors were treated locally in the affected area, the immunological fighting response could occur anywhere else in the body that may be affected now or in the future.
L19-IL2 is known to be safe to patients with mild to no side effects and clinical trials are in the works to prolong or possibly halt the progression of disease in patients with oligometastatic tumors (metastatic tumors usually confined to a single area or organ). Treatment of such localized areas will help the body fight any future reoccurrences, ushering a new era in cancer therapy that’s been a long time coming.