Interferons: Therapeutic Uses


Interferons were the first cytokines to be used therapeutically as naturally derived and as recombinant forms in humans. Their broad biological activity has resulted in clinical benefits in diseases ranging from infectious (such as viral hepatitis), autoimmune (in particular multiple sclerosis) to neoplastic (lymphomas and carcinomas).

Keywords: interferons; human viral hepatitis; haematologic neoplasms; carcinoma; multiple sclerosis

Figure 1.

The pattern of favourable clinical and laboratory response to interferon α (IFN) therapy in (a) hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, and (b) hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. ALT, alanine aminotransferase; HBeAb, hepatitis B e antibody; HBeAg, hepatitis B e antigen; HBsAb, hepatitis B surface antibody; HBsAg, hepatitis B surface antigen.



Baffis V, Shrier I, Sherker AH and Szilagyi A (1999) Use of interferon for prevention of hepatocellular carcinoma in cirrhotic patients with hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus infection. Annals of Internal Medicine 131: 696–701.

Castello G, Ruocco V, Santriano RA and Zarrilli D (1991) Role of interferons in the therapy of melanoma. Melanoma Research i: 311–325.

Davis GL, Esterban‐Mur R, Rustgi V and the International Hepatitis Interventional Therapy Group (1998) Interferon alfa‐2b along or in combination with ribavirin for the treatment of relapse of chronic hepatitis C. New England Journal of Medicine 339: 1493–1499.

Guilhot F, Chastang C, Michallet M and the French Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Study Group (1997) Interferon alfa‐2b combined with cytarabine versus interferon alone in chronic myelogenous leukemia. New England Journal of Medicine 337: 223–229.

Janssen HLA, Gerken G, Carreno V et al. (1999) Interferon alfa for chronic hepatitis B infection: increased efficacy of prolonged treatment. Hepatology 30: 238–243.

Joshua DE, Penny R, Matthews JP and the Australian Leukaemia Study Group (1997) Australian Leukaemia Study Group Myeloma II: a randomized trial of intensive combination chemotherapy with or without interferon in patients with myeloma. British Journal of Haematology 97: 38–45.

Kantarjian HM, Smith TL, O'Brien S et al. (1995) Prolonged survival in chronic myelogenous leukemia after cytogenetic response to interferon‐alpha therapy. Annals of Internal Medicine 330: 820–825.

Mandelli F, Avvisati G, Amadori S et al. (1990) Maintenance treatment with recombinant interferon alfa‐2b in patients with multiple myeloma responding to conventional induction chemotherapy. New England Journal of Medicine 322: 1430–1434.

Noseworthy JH (1999) Progress in determining the causes and treatment of multiple sclerosis. Nature 399: A40–47.

Villar‐Grimalt A, Candel MT, Masuti B et al. (1999) A randomised phase II trial of 5‐fluorouracil, with or without interferon‐beta for advanced colorectal cancer. British Journal of Cancer 80: 76–91.

Further Reading

Biron CA (1998) Role of early cytokines, including alpha and beta interferons (IFN‐α/β), in innate and adaptive immune responses to viral infections. Immunology 10: 383–390.

Kirkwood JM (1998) Adjuvant IFN‐α2 therapy of melanoma. Lancet 351: 1901–1903.

Liang TJ, Rehermann B, Seef LB and Hoofnagle JH (2000) Pathogenesis, natural history, treatment, and prevention of hepatitis C. Annals of Internal Medicine 132: 296–305.

Malik AH and Lee WM (2000) Chronic hepatitis B virus infection: treatment strategies for the next millenium. Annals of Internal Medicine 132: 723–731.

Ralph SJ, Wong LHWA, Hatzinisiriou I et al. (1998) Revising interferons: prodigies among the cytokines. Today's Life Science Nov/Dec: 37–43.

Stuart‐Harris R and Penny R (eds) (1997) Clinical Applications of the Interferons. London: Chapman and Hall.

Tilg H and Kaser A (1999) Interferons and their role in inflammation (Review). Current Pharmaceutical Design 5: 771–785.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Penny, Ronald, and Stuart‐Harris, Robin(Apr 2001) Interferons: Therapeutic Uses. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0002168]