Interferon boosting the body’s own defences

Interferon boosting the body’s own defences

This patient-friendly article is about chemotherapy drug, Interferon - stimulating the body’s own defences. This chemotherapy and cancer drugs article is about Interferon - a biological therapy, like Aldesleukin, in which substances that occur naturally in the body are manufactured and used to combat cancer by stimulating the body’s own immune system.

Interferon is actually a naturally occurring protein produced when the body is challenged by viruses, bacteria, parasites, microbes or cancer cells, but synthetic forms are usually used for the drug.

Interferon alpha, the usual version used (the others are beta and gamma), is used to stimulate the body’s natural immune system in the expectation that this will then overwhelm the cancer. Interferons belong to a class of proteins called glycoproteins and are cytokines. Interferon was discovered during work on Smallpox in Tokyo and Influenza in London.

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Interferons are antiviral and possess anti-oncogenic properties. They can enhance the ability of T-cells to recognise a foreign cell then activate Natural Killer cells to attack and macrophage activity to digest and remove. Interferon is used as a treatment for certain cancers like malignant melanoma, multiple myeloma and kidney cancers. It may be also used after chemotherapy as a treatment to maintain the status of remission.


Treatments vary in duration. You may need to go into hospital, or a nurse may come to your home. It is even possible to self-administer. The Interferon is usually given by subcutaneous injection in the abdomen or thigh and phials should be kept in the refrigerator.

Other factors are crucial to producing an immune effect against a pathogen. For example molecules of vitamin D are essential to activate an immune attack against cancer.

Go to: Vitamin D. Are you getting enough?
Side-effects can include: depression, dizziness, localised skin infections, pins and needles, loss of appetite, sickness, fatigue and flu-like symptoms. In some cases hair loss and fertility loss have also occurred.  This is because only small amounts are naturally found in the body the sudden large levels do have a significant effect.

Other Articles of Interest

We have a Living Proof - a diary of Peter Bullivant who took interferon for over a year - Click here to read his story.

Go to: 10 ways to improve your chemotherapy success and reduce side-effects

Other articles that you may find interesting are:

  1. A diet for Chemotherapy
  2. Immunotherapy overview
  3. A to Z Guide to Complementary Therapies

Go to: Return to the CANCERactive drug list


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