Interferons belong to the class of cytokines and are glycoproteins secreted by cells of the immune system with the aim of fighting foreign elements in the body, including parasites and viruses. There are several types of interferons, with interferon-alpha being the most used as immunotherapy for cancer.
Interferon is a molecule primarily produced by certain cells of the immune system, called mononuclear cells, and which exerts its modulating effects on the immune response by stimulating the proliferation and anticellular toxicity of other cells of the immune system, including macrophages and cells NK (natural killer).
In addition, interferon promotes cell differentiation of certain lymphocytes, called cytotoxic “T” lymphocytes, which act by destroying tumor cells or virus-infected cells.
Finally, interferon induces the expression of substances on the surface of tumor cells, facilitating their recognition and destruction by other cells of the immune system.
Interferon-alpha has been used in the treatment of some presentations of melanoma and kidney cancer, among other neoplasms. Recently, a new form of interferon-alpha, called pegylated interferon-alpha, has been researched, which apparently results in a lower incidence of side effects.