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December 12, 1986

On Lymphokines, Cytokines, and Breakthroughs

JAMA. 1986;256(22):3141. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03380220107034

Advanced cancer will take the lives of almost half a million Americans this year. Certainly, any claim of therapeutic accomplishment in this area will attract major public interest. In recent times, this interest has been focused on the lymphokines and cytokines, natural substances that man produces as a defense against the diseases that may afflict him. Through ingenious recombinant DNA technologies, these substances can be produced in quantities sufficiently large to permit therapeutic application. Numbered among these are the interferons, tumor necrosis factor, and the interleukins.

In this issue of The Journal, a group of investigators present a second report1 of their work with high doses of interleukin 2 (IL-2) used either alone or, as first reported,2 in combination with lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) cells. Following their first publication, these authors described their work as a "breakthrough"; since this claim bore the imprimatur of the National Cancer Institute, it