Engineering IL-2 for immunotherapy of autoimmunity and cancer

Rosmely Hernandez, Janika Põder, Kathryn M. LaPorte, Thomas R. Malek

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Preclinical studies of the T cell growth factor activity of IL-2 resulted in this cytokine becoming the first immunotherapy to be approved nearly 30 years ago by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of cancer. Since then, we have learnt the important role of IL-2 in regulating tolerance through regulatory T cells (Treg cells) besides promoting immunity through its action on effector T cells and memory T cells. Another pivotal event in the history of IL-2 research was solving the crystal structure of IL-2 bound to its tripartite receptor, which spurred the development of cell type-selective engineered IL-2 products. These new IL-2 analogues target Treg cells to counteract the dysregulated immune system in the context of autoimmunity and inflammatory disorders or target effector T cells, memory T cells and natural killer cells to enhance their antitumour responses. IL-2 biologics have proven to be effective in preclinical studies and clinical assessment of some is now underway. These studies will soon reveal whether engineered IL-2 biologics are truly capable of harnessing the IL-2–IL-2 receptor pathway as effective monotherapies or combination therapies for autoimmunity and cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNature Reviews Immunology
StateAccepted/In press - 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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