The Resource Train
"Lunch and Learn": Dr. Melanie Thompson Sheds Light on IL-2
On July 10, AIDS Survival Project along with Chiron brought the Interleukin-2 (IL-2) Informational Luncheon to the Atlanta HIV Community. On hand to provide the information for this "Lunch and Learn" was Dr. Melanie Thompson, founder of the AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta (ARCA), as well as a patient currently on IL-2.
Before we get started, I am going to start out with a list of words and their meaning to help you understand the mechanics of IL-2 and the study.
Originally manufactured to treat metastatic renal cell cancer and melanoma, IL-2 is currently being evaluated in two different types of clinical trials related to HIV, SILCAAT and ESPRIT. In both of these trials, the benefit of IL-2 in persons with HIV is being examined due to the ability IL-2 has in boosting the immune system. Although very toxic, early data has shown evidence of an increase in the number of T-cells when IL-2 is given in combination with antiretrovirals.
SILCAAT, the study offered by ARCA, is currently enrolling for people who meet the following requirements:
NOTE: This is not a complete list; there are other requirements for the study.
The study does not have a cost and you will be provided with the drug(s) in your treatment group but not with any other medications. All tests and procedures for the study will be provided at no cost to you. Those who are assigned to get IL-2 will administer five-day cycles of two subcutaneous (below the skin) injections a day.
ESPRIT, the study offered by a number of clinic sites throughout the country has the following requirements:
Those who are assigned to get IL-2 will have five days of twice-daily injections under the skin every eight weeks.
Those who are interested in IL-2, you must be aware of the side effects that can occur with this treatment. They include the following:
Tips for managing IL-2 side effects were described in detail by the patient who has completed four cycles of IL-2. He recommends that folks drink lots of water and Gatorade as well as take Tylenol every four hours two days prior to the treatment. He also suggests you keep a heavy coat of vaseline on your feet and hands to help prevent dryness as well as a supply of anti-nausea medicine in your cabinet in case you feel nausea. He also suggests approximately three days before IL-2 you change to a bland diet which would include Gatorade and Jell-O in order to lessen the severity of diarrhea. Most importantly, keep a diary about everything that happens during your five-day regimen. This information will help your study team and your caregivers.
The Bottom Line
As patients consider this study as an option in treatment, they must compare and balance potential benefits as well as drawbacks. For the medical community still has not come to a conclusion on the value of the new T-cells generated by IL-2. It can not bring T-cells "back from the dead" and you are only able to "manufacture" more of the T-cells that still exist. (Example: Let's say the "letters" (types of T-cells) that you need to fight off pneumonia are Z, E, B, R, and A and you have lost all of your copies of letter Z, you can not spell zebra and you might develop pneumonia.)
The question remains: is "manufacturing" more of the existing T-cells enough to keep the HIV community well and opportunistic free? We will never know unless you sign up with ARCA or a study site in your area and help find the answer.
(Information also gathered from New Mexico AIDS InfoNet, Project Inform, Chiron Corporation, and The Hopkins HIV Report.)
(lists study sites)
www.espritstudy.org (lists study sites)
AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta (SILCAAT Study)
Atlanta VA Medical Center (ESPRIT)
This article was provided by AIDS Survival Project. It is a part of the publication Survival News.