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January 22, 1982

Interferon emerging as hormone-like substance

JAMA. 1982;247(4):418-421. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320290004003

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The First Annual International Congress for Interferon Research, held in Washington, DC, during the fall of 1980, left the impression that interferon as an anticancer drug was intriguing but unproved (JAMA [MEDICAL NEWS] 1981;245:109-116).

The second congress, held recently in San Francisco and, like the first congress, well attended by scientists, the business community, and the press, left much the same impression. However, some new questions, for example, those concerning interferon's possible role in disease induction, came to light.

At the time of the first congress, the results of the American Cancer Society-sponsored phase I trials of interferon in cancer patients were known. They were highly variable—reported tumor regression ranged from 0% to 40%—and raised several questions, such as these: Was the variability of response due to the kind of interferon used for treatment (there are three major groups of interferons that include a minimum of 20 distinct entities)? Was