|Generic Name||Brand Name|
|interferon alfa-2a||Roferon A|
|interferon alfa-2b||Intron A|
Interferon is usually given as a shot under the skin.
How It Works
Interferon is a man-made copy of a protein that is produced by the body in response to infection. It helps the immune system fight disease and may slow or stop the growth of cancer cells. It can make cancer cells too weak to protect themselves from the immune system.
Why It Is Used
How Well It Works
Research shows that interferon is better than busulfan or hydroxyurea in treating CML. But interferon also causes more side effects.1
The use of interferon may increase the survival rate of some people with melanoma.2
Side effects of treatment with interferon are common and may include:
- Flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, muscle aches, fever, chills, and fatigue. You may be able to feel better if you take the drug at bedtime along with a pain reliever such as acetaminophen (for example, Tylenol).
- Loss of appetite and weight loss.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Low blood counts, which may increase your risk of infection or bleeding.
Rare side effects include:
- Excessive amounts of protein in the urine.
- Hair loss.
- Suicidal behavior.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
Interferon should be used only under the supervision of a medical oncologist or hematologist. When interferon is used for chronic viral hepatitis, a hepatologist or gastroenterologist is most likely to supervise treatment.
Clinical trials are studying the use of interferon for melanoma that has spread or come back.
Interferon can cause birth defects. Taking this medicine is not recommended if you wish to become pregnant or to father a child while you are taking it. But for young women with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) who are pregnant, there may be less risk in taking this medicine compared to other medicines, such as tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs).
Do not use alcohol or illegal drugs while you are being treated with interferon.
- Reichard KK, et al. (2009). Chronic myeloid leukemia. In JP Greer et al., eds., Wintrobe's Clinical Hematology, 12th ed., vol. 2, pp. 2006–2030. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
- Kirkwood JM, et al. (2004). A pooled analysis of Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group and intergroup trials of adjuvant high-dose interferon for melanoma. Clinical Cancer Research, 10(5): 1670–1677.
Last Revised: December 17, 2010
To learn more visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2012 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.