We are writing to express our concerns about the advertised indications for treating patients with melanoma with interferon. In 1995 the US Food and Drug Administration approved the use of interferon alfa-2b for patients with high-risk melanomas who are free of disease but at risk for recurrence following surgical treatment. The approval was based on a study1 showing improved survival rates with interferon treatment. This approval has been followed by an aggressive advertisement campaign by the drug's manufacturer. With this new hope for successful treatment, it is important that physicians understand the limitations of adjuvant interferon therapy—especially given the drug's cost, toxicity, and response rates.
The benefits of adjuvant interferon therapy are debatable and varied among published studies.1-3 The previously mentioned prospective trial1 was the first randomized adjuvant therapy study to show a survival benefit and therefore resulted in a rapid approval of interferon use by the
Cook J, Zitelli JA. Treating Patients With Melanoma With Interferon. Arch Dermatol. 1997;133(3):387. doi:10.1001/archderm.1997.03890390131022