5-Fluorouracil (FUra) modulated by leucovorin (LV) is active in the treatment of colorectal cancer. Diarrhea and stomatitis are the most common dose-limiting toxicities. We have developed a model system in rats bearing a transplantable colon carcinoma sensitive to FUra therapy with dose-limiting toxicity profiles similar to what is observed in patients treated with either daily or weekly schedules of FUra plus LV. Interleukin 15 (IL-15), a cytokine that shares many biological activities with IL-2, was used at different doses (25, 100, and 400 µg/kg) and schedules (three doses before a single dose of FUra, FUra/LV daily × 5, or before each week of FUra/LV weekly × 4, or three doses before a single dose of FUra or FUra/LV daily × 5, then twice daily × 5 for a total of 11 doses) to evaluate its role in the modulation of the therapeutic selectivity of FUra alone and modulated by LV. IL-15 induced a dramatic decrease in chemotherapy-induced gastrointestinal toxicities, significant potentiation of antitumor activity, and an increased therapeutic index of FUra administered on single dose, daily × 5 and weekly × 4 schedules. In contrast, IL-2 (400 µg/kg) significantly potentiated the toxicity of FUra administered as a single i.v. push, with minimal potentiation of the antitumor activity.

Taken together, the results clearly demonstrated the ability of IL-15, but not IL-2, to provide significant improvement of the therapeutic index of FUra alone and in combination with LV. The clinical relevance of the results obtained in this model system needs to be confirmed.


Supported in part by Grant DHP147 from the American Cancer Society and Immunex Corporation.

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