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Aldesleukin: High-Dose (Generic Name)

UPMC Content 2

About This Drug

IL-2 is used to treat cancer. High-dose IL-2 is given in the vein (IV).

Possible Side Effects (More Common)

    • Bone marrow depression. This is a decrease in the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. This may raise your risk of infection, make you tired and weak (fatigue), and raise your risk of bleeding.
    • Soreness of the mouth and throat. You may have red areas, white patches, or sores that hurt.
    • Nausea and throwing up. These symptoms may happen within several hours after you get this drug and may last up to 24 hours. Medicines are available to stop and lessen these side effects.
    • Loose bowel movements (diarrhea) that may last for a few days
    • This drug may affect how your kidneys work. Your kidney function will be checked as needed.
    • Itching
    • Raised, red rash on your arms, legs, back, or chest
    • Dry skin, which includes roughness, chapping, scaling, flaking, or redness
    • Flu-like symptoms. You may have a fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, and fatigue (low energy, feeling weak).
    • Chills. This often happens 1 to 4 hours after getting IL-2
    • Fast heartbeat, or a feeling that your heart is beating in a not normal way.
    • Trouble catching your breath
    • You may be short of breath.  Your arms, hands, legs and feet may swell.
    • Trouble breathing when lying flat
    • Low blood pressure
    • Rectal bleeding
    • Changes in the tissue of the heart. Some changes may happen that can cause your heart to have less ability to pump blood. Your heart function will be checked as needed.
    • Decreased urination
    • Feeling irritable, confused, or agitated
    • Muscle weakness
    • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
    • Lung tissue changes. IL-2 may cause fluid to build up in your lungs, making it harder for you to breathe.
    • Weight gain. This is a short term fluid weight gain and will lessen after treatment.
      Increased total bilirubin in your blood.  This may mean that you have changes in your liver function. Your blood work will be checked by your doctor.
    • Chest pain or symptoms of a heart attack. Most heart attacks involve pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes. The pain may go away and come back or it can be constant. It can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. Sometimes pain is felt in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach. If any of these symptoms last 2 minutes, call 911.

Possible Side Effects (Less Common)

    • Decreased appetite (decreased hunger)
    • Changes in thyroid gland function. Your thyroid gland will be checked as needed.
    • Urine that is dark, cloudy, and has a bad odor.
    • Trouble sleeping, nightmares
    • Trouble remembering
    • Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not really there)
    • Feeling depressed
    • Seizures. This effect is rare.
    • Taking this drug can cause an increased risk of having an allergic reaction to iodine contrast which may be used in some x-ray procedures. This may happen while you are in treatment with IL-2 and for 1 year after you get the last dose of this drug.
      • Before you have an x-ray procedure with an iodine contrast material, talk with your cancer doctor (oncologist) for further instructions.

Allergic Reactions

  • Allergic reactions including anaphylaxis are rare but may happen in some patients.  Signs of allergic reactions to this drug may be swelling of the face, feeling like your tongue or throat are swelling, trouble breathing, rash, itching, fever, chills, feeling dizzy, and/or feeling that your heart is beating in a fast or not normal way.  If this happens, do not take another dose of this drug. You should get urgent medical treatment.
  • While you are getting this drug in your IV, tell your nurse right away if you have any of these symptoms of an allergic reaction:
    • trouble catching your breath
    • feeling like your tongue or throat are swelling
    • feeling your heart beat quickly  or in a not normal way (palpitations)
    • feeling dizzy or lightheaded
    • flushing, itching, rash, and/or hives

Treating Side Effects

    • Drink 6-8 cups of fluids every day unless your doctor has told you to limit your fluid intake due to some other health problem. A cup is 8 ounces of fluid. If you throw up or have loose bowel movements, you should drink more fluids so that you do not become dehydrated (lack water in the body due to losing too much fluid).
    • Mouth care is very important. Your mouth care should consist of gentle clean of your teeth or dentures with a very soft tooth brush and rinsing your mouth with a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water or 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in 8 ounces of water. This should be done at least after every meal and at bedtime.
    • Avoid mouthwash that contains alcohol. Also avoid alcohol and smoking because they can bother your mouth and throat.
    • Ask your doctor or nurse about medicine to help prevent or lessen nausea and throwing up
    • Ask your doctor or nurse about medicine that is available to help stop or lessen the loose bowel movements.
    • If you get a rash do not put anything on it unless your doctor or nurse says you may. Keep the area around the rash clean and dry.  Ask your doctor for medicine if your rash bothers you.
    • Be careful when cooking, walking, handling sharp objects, and hot liquids.
    • Use effective methods of birth control during your cancer treatment.
    • Talk with your doctor or nurse if you feel you need help with moods.
    • If you are dizzy, get up slowly after sitting or lying.
    • Ask your doctor or nurse about medicine that is available to help stop or lessen fever, headache, muscle and joint aches.

Food and Drug Interactions

There are no known interactions of IL-2 and any food. Interferon (alpha) can enhance the adverse effects IL-2, mostly with heart and kidney problems. This drug may interact with other medicines. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medicines and dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbs and others) that you are taking at this time. The safety and use of dietary supplements and alternative diets are often not known. Using these might affect your cancer or interfere with your treatment. Until more is known, you should not use dietary supplements or alternative diets without your cancer doctor's help.


When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse right away if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Fever of 100.5 F (38 C) or higher
  • Chills
  • Trouble catching your breath
  • Easy bleeding or bruising
  • Nausea that stops you from eating or drinking
  • Throwing up more than 3 times in 1 day
  • Chest pain or tightness. If this lasts for 2 minutes or longer, call 911.
  • Feeling that your heart is beating in a fast or not normal way (palpitations)
  • Swelling of feet, hands, or neck
  • Weight gain of 5 pounds or more in 1 week
  • Difficult or painful urination
  • Urinating smaller amounts than usual
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Trouble waking up
  • Feeling agitated, having seizures or hallucinations
  • Feeling confused
  • Signs of liver problems: dark urine, pale bowel movements, bad stomach pain, feeling very tired and weak, unusual itching, or yellowing of the eyes or skin,
  • Loose bowel movements (diarrhea) more than 4 times a day or diarrhea with weakness or feeling lightheaded

Call your doctor or nurse as soon as possible if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Pain in your mouth or throat that makes it hard to eat or drink
  • Nausea that is not relieved by prescribed medicines
  • Pain in arms or legs that is not relieved by prescribed medicine
  • Headache that does not go away
  • Lasting loss of appetite for more than 7 days
  • Weight loss of 5 pounds or more in 1 week
  • Extreme weakness that interferes with normal activities
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Rash that bothers you
  • Changes in your mood
  • Trouble sleeping, nightmares

Reproduction Concerns

  • Pregnancy warning: This drug may have harmful effects on the unborn child, so effective methods of birth control should be used during your cancer treatment.
  • Speak with your doctor or nurse if you plan to have children.  Ask for information on sperm or egg banking.
  • Genetic counseling is available for you to talk about the effects of this drug therapy on future pregnancies. Also, a genetic counselor can look at the possible risk of problems in the unborn baby due to this medicine if an exposure happens during pregnancy.
  • Breast feeding warning: Women should not breast feed during treatment because this drug could enter the breast milk and seriously harm a breast feeding baby.

Revised August 2014