Interferon is usually given as a shot under the
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.
Interferon may be used to treat some leukemias and other diseases, such as melanoma that has spread to the lymph nodes and chronic hepatitis C.
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
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
or other emergency services right away if you have:
Call your doctor right away if you have:
Common side effects of this medicine include:
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug
Reference is not available in all systems.)
Do not use alcohol or illegal drugs while you are
being treated with interferon.
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
Women who use this medicine during pregnancy have a slightly higher chance of having a baby with birth defects. If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, you and your doctor must weigh the risks of using this medicine against the risks of not treating your condition.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
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.
December 14, 2012
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
& Brian Leber, MDCM, FRCPC - Hematology
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