A natural protein produced by cells in the body that has various effects on immune system cells. In particular, it activates macrophages (phagocytosis) and it has antiviral, antiproliferative and antifibrotic properties.
Interferons inhibit cell proliferation and stimulate immune defences. Some interferons are now produced industrially and used in medicine, for example, to treat some forms of cancer and multiple sclerosis.
Interferon has a role in oncology to treat some tumours: renal cancer, leukaemia, lymphomas, myeloma (a form of cancer of the bone marrow) or melanoma. Different doses are given by subcutaneous injections, depending on the indications.
Side effects: These are usually a "flu-like" syndrome with temperature, muscle aches, and tiredness similar to influenza and responding to paracetamol. Character problems or even, occasionally, severe depression, frequently occur. Interferon can be combined with chemotherapy in some situations (skin cancer, advanced cervical cancer).