(Please note: Dinileukin Diftitox (Ontak) is currently unavailable.  A new formulation of this is currently in clinical trial.)  

Denileukin Diftitox (DD) is a targeted therapy. That is, it was designed to attack cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) cells through a selected surface receptor and deliver a toxin (poison) that kills CTCL cells.

DD is fusion toxin - a synthetic molecule that combines a portion of the interleukin-2 protein with the diphtheria toxin protein. It enters CTCL cells by targeting and binding to the interleukin-2 receptor on the cell surface and selectively kills them. DD is used when patients that have failed multiple other treatments or demonstrate rapid progression of their disease.

Oncology nurses administer DD by intravenous (in the vein) infusion in an outpatient setting.  Treatments are typically given on 5 consecutive days every 3 weeks.  Individual infusions take approximately1½ to 2 hours to administer.  Measures are taken to prevent allergy to this targeted therapy by administering antihistamines, steroids, and Tylenol prior to treatment.

Common side effects to DD may include flu like symptoms, swelling of the lower extremities or face, flushing and warmth of the skin, rash, back pain, chest pain, shortness of breath, or dizziness.  In general, CTCL patients tend to tolerate this therapy quite well, as they are spared the usual side effects associated with traditional chemotherapy.