Preliminary research suggests that a drug typically used to kickstart the immune system may help cancer patients who receive stem cell transplants and then develop a potentially deadly side effect.
The drug appears to work by preventing the donor's immune system cells from overreacting to their new home and causing systemic inflammation.
Researchers found that daily low-dose injections of interleukin-2 appeared to help some patients by treating the side effect, known as graft-versus-host disease (GVHD).
These are the results of the study conducted at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston
In the study, 12 of 23 patients who took the drug for eight weeks showed improvement in symptoms related to GVHD, including skin rash and other skin problems, hepatitis and inflamed lungs. The condition didn't worsen while the patients took the drug.
The study is the first phase of three stages of research that drug treatments must undergo before the federal government approves them to treat specific conditions. That means the findings are preliminary and may not be replicated in future research.
The study is published in the Dec. 1 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine