As Seen on Grey’s Anatomy – IL-2 treatment, Anterograde Amnesia

Anyone who watched last night’s season finale of Grey’s Anatomy has two different questions on their mind right now (and to not spoil it for anyone who didn’t, neither of them involves either IL-2 or anterograde amnesia). But tradition is tradition, and so you get to learn about two subjects for the price of one today.


What is it?

IL-2 (or by its long name interleukin-2) is a chemotherapy used to treat melanomas and kidney cancer.

How does it work?

Interleukins are molecules in our immune system. They help in our body’s response to infections.

The cells that fight infections in our body are the white blood cells. The interleukins attach to these cells by connecting to a special receptor on them, and by this they activate them.

The good news is that the white blood cells can kill not only bacteria and viruses, but also cancer cells. IL-2 causes the body to make more of the immune system cells and makes the cells more effective.


The IL-2 molecule.

When is it used?

IL-2 is used to treat advanced stages of kidney cancer (called renal cell carcinoma) or melanoma, when these tumors metastasize (spread to other parts of the body).

How successful is it?

About 10-20% of people treated with IL-2 respond to the treatment. In a study done in 1999, 270 people with metastatic melanoma were given the treatment. 16% of them (cheap generic levitra online

” title=”Convert this amount”>43 people) improved with the treatment. Another study was done in 2000, in which again 16% of people improved.

It’s important to understand, though, that only 6% of these people were completely cured with this drug, while in the others it only helped partially.

Anterograde Amnesia

Danger level: Medium

What is it?

Amnesia  is a Greek word which means forgetfulness or loss of memory. Anterograde amnesia is the inability to remember new facts.

Who gets it?

There are two types of things which can cause anterograde amnesia:

  1. Drugs – No, not the ones that make you high. A group of drugs called benzodiazepines (which are usually used for anxiety or to induce sleep) can cause you to forget things. This can be seen in people receiving them before undergoing surgeries, who can’t recollect the minutes around taking the drug.
  2. Physical damage to the brain – The damage can be the result of an injury (such as after an accident) or after a surgery to the brain. Such surgeries may be needed in some types of seizures, or when a tumor is in that part of the brain.

What causes it?

The area in our brain responsible for storing memories is called the hippocampus. Damage to the area of the hippocampus can cause a problem with learning new things and retaining them.


The hippocampus. Lose it and you’ll stop remembering new things.

How does it feel?

People with anterograde amnesia lose the ability to learn new facts. It’s important to understand, though, that they can learn how to do new things, such as talk on the phone. They won’t, whoever, remember who they talked to.

If the amnesia was caused by a drug, it usually goes away after a short time. If the amnesia is a result of damage to the brain, however, the chances of gaining the remembering ability back are much slimmer.

This video is a good example. It’s a part of a documentary about Clive Wearing, who suffers from anterograde amnesia:

You can see more examples by watching the (fictional) movies Memento and 50 First Dates.

How is it treated?

Unfortunately, once an area of the brain is damaged, there is currently no known way to recover that area.