Neuroimmunomodulation in medical oncology: Application of psychoneuroimmunology with subcutaneous low-dose IL-2 and the pineal hormone melatonin in patients with untreatable metastatic solid tumors

Paolo Lissoni, Fernando Brivio, Luca Fumagalli, Giusy Messina, Luigi Vigoré, Daniela Parolini, Massimo Colciago, Franco Rovelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Anticancer immunity is under psychoneuroendocrine regulation, mainly via the pineal gland and brain opioid system, which may stimulate and inhibit antitumor immunity respectively. Cancer-related immunosuppression does not depend only on functional damage of immune cells, but also on alterations of systems responsible for the neuroimmunomodulation, the most frequent of wich is a decline in blood levels of the pineal hormone melatonin (MLT). Patients and Methods: A study was performed to evaluate the influence of an exogenous administration of MLT alone or MLT plus subcutaneous (SC) low-dose interleukin-2 on tumor progression and survival time in patients with untreatable metastatic solid tumors. The study included 846 patients with metastatic solid tumor (non-small cell lung cancer or gastrointestinal tract tumors) randomized to receive the best supportive care only, supportive care plus MLT (20 mg/day, orally in the evening), or MLT plus SC low-dose IL-2 (3 MIU/day for 5 days/week, for 4 consecutive weeks). Results: The MLT alone was able to induce a significant increase of disease stabilization and survival time with respect to supportive care alone. The association of IL-2 with MLT provided a further improvement in the percentage of tumor regressions and of 3-year survival with respect to MLT alone. Conclusion: The administration of IL-2 and the pineal hormone MLT may induce control of neolplastic growth and a prolonged survival time in patients with metastatic solid tumors, for whom no other conventional anticancer therapy is available.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1377-1381
Number of pages5
JournalAnticancer Research
Issue number2 B
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008



  • Cancer immunotherapy
  • IL-2
  • Melatonin
  • Neuroimmunomodulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology

Cite this