Blocking the interleukin 2 (IL2)-induced systemic autophagic syndrome promotes profound antitumor effects and limits toxicity

Michael T. Lotze, William J. Buchser, Xiaoyan Liang

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Cancer is the leading cause of death in the United States in those dying under the age of 85. Although cancer is increasingly controlled as a chronic disease, true cures of patients with metastatic epithelial malignancies have rarely been obtained with currently available systemic therapies. For example, administration of high-dose recombinant interleukin 2 (IL2), enhancing cytolytic immune cell proliferation and delivery, promotes complete antitumor responses in < 10% of treated individuals. Means to reduce the toxicity, attributed to a cytokine storm and an associated "systemic autophagic syndrome" as well as enhance efficacy and increase the potential set of malignancies in which it is applied (currently patients with renal cancer and melanoma) would be of great interest. IL2 promotes both T-cell and NK cell induction of immune cellmediated autophagy (iC-MA) in tumor targets. We have demonstrated that HMGB1 is detected at high levels in the serum of IL2-treated mice with translocation to the cytoplasm from the nucleus in the liver, consistent with HMGB1's release in response to stress, and ability to sustain autophagy. Limiting autophagy in mice with coadministration of chloroquine (CQ) diminishes serum levels of HMGB1, cytokines (IFNG and IL6 but not IL18), and autophagic flux, attenuating weight gain, enhancing DC, T-cell and NK cell numbers, and promoting long-term tumor control in a murine hepatic metastases model. Autophagy (programmed cell survival) is a metabolic process associated with promotion of late cancer growth. In tumor cell lines, CQ treatment limits ATP production through inhibition of oxidative phosphorylation and promotion of apoptosis. CQ increases autophagic vacuoles and LC3-II levels in tumor cells, associated with increased annexin V+/PIcells, cleaved-PARP, cleaved-CASP3, and cytochrome c release from mitochondria. These observations, limiting toxicity and prolonging antitumor effects, with a combination of IL2 and autophagy inhibition in murine models are now being tested by the Cytokine Working Group in patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1264-1266
Number of pages3
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • Autophagy
  • Chloroquine
  • Dendritic cells
  • High mobility group box 1
  • IL6
  • Interleukin 2
  • Oxidative phosphorylation


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