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A limited institution Phase II pilot study was performed using a very low-dose combination of daily s.c. interleukin (IL)-2 with IFN-alpha-2b in patients with advanced renal cancer in an attempt to duplicate or increase the response documented with higher dose schedules without the attendant toxicity profile. We selected a dose of IL-2 with documented immunological activity and combined it with clinically active low-dose IFN. Between August 1994 and September 1996, 19 patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma, who had been judged incapable of tolerating high-dose i.v. IL-2, were treated with IL-2 (1 million units/m2/day) and IFN (1 million units/day), administered s.c. daily. All treatments were administered on an outpatient basis. Virtually all patients had bulky tumor burden with multiple sites of involvement, including five patients with bone metastases. No major objective responses were observed; however, one patient experienced a minor response lasting 13 months, with an associated improvement in performance status. Median survival was 6 months, and 1-year survival was 16%. Toxicity was generally mild and consisted almost entirely of constitutional symptoms. No serious grade 3 or 4 toxicity was observed, although two patients withdrew from treatment due to treatment-related fatigue. On therapy, mild eosinophilia but no lymphocytosis was noted; in fact, peripheral lymphocyte counts decreased, only to rebound after treatment was discontinued. No toxic deaths occurred. Despite the reasonable tolerability of this daily low-dose s.c. regimen, we conclude that this regimen is an ineffective treatment in metastatic renal cell carcinoma patients who are incapable of tolerating high-dose i.v. IL-2.