Adjuvant treatment of breast cancer: A pilot immunochemotherapy study with CMF, interleukin-2 and interferon alpha

Giuseppe Tonini, Corrado Nunziata, Salvatore P. Prete, Rita Pepponi, Mario Turriziani, Giovanna Masci, Grazia Graziani, Enzo Bonmassar, Liana De Vecchis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Immune responses, including natural immunity (NI), potentiate the antitumor effects of chemotherapy. Since interferons and interleukin-2 (IL- 2) augment NI, a pilot study was conducted to assess the tolerability and the effects on host immunity of adjuvant chemotherapy associated with IL-2 + interferon alpha (IFN) in breast cancer patients after surgery. Ten patients underwent alternating 28-day cycles of chemoimmunotherapy [cyclophosphamide + methotrexate + 5-fluorouracil (CMF, days 1, 8) + IL-2 (days 1519) + IFN (day 22)] and chemotherapy alone (CMF). With this regimen each patient was considered to be a reasonable 'control' of herself. Blood cell count and natural killer cell activity (NKA) were tested on days 1, 8, 15, 22, and 23. Preliminary in vitro studies indicated that IL-2 or IFN antagonized the severe inhibition of NKA induced by hydroxy-peroxy-cyclophosphamide (in vitro active derivative of cyclophosphamide), alone or associated with methotrexate + 5-fluorouracil. Nine patients completed all six alternating cycles, whereas one patient proved to have metastatic lesions after four cycles. The protocol was well tolerated, although leukopenia (CMF alone) and leukopenia with fever and moderate or minimal flu-like symptoms (CMF + IL-2 + IFN) were generally observed. Treatment with IL-2 facilitated complete recovery of white cell counts and NKA after the nadir on day 15. In conclusion, the present protocol appears to be well tolerated and amenable to administration on an outpatient basis. Therefore, further investigations should be performed to verify whether CMF + IL-2 + IFN would be superior to CMF alone for adjuvant treatment after surgery in breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-166
Number of pages10
JournalCancer Immunology, Immunotherapy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1998


  • Breast cancer
  • Chemo-immunotherapy
  • CMF
  • Interferon alpha

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Immunology
  • Oncology


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