The interferons are a group of proteins found naturally in the body that serve as biological response modifiers.1 As such, they do not directly attack the malignant cell or virus. Instead, interferons heighten the host cell response to these conditions through cell surface receptors that precipitate a multitude of events resulting in antiviral, immunomodulatory, and antiproliferative effects. There are three types of interferons recognized at present: interferon alpha (formerly known as leukocyte interferon), interferon beta (also called fibroblast interferon), and interferon gamma (originally named immune interferon). Interferon alpha and beta are most closely related, but all three types have distinct structures and functions.
In this issue, Vonderheid and coworkers clearly demonstrate an antitumor effect of interferon alfa-2b against mycosis fungoides (cutaneous T-cell lymphoma). Twelve intralesional injections of the subtype interferon alfa-2b induced a small but relatively long-lasting zone of clinically disease-free skin within histologically proven
Libby Edwards. InterferonPromises, Disappointments, and Tempered Optimism. Arch Dermatol. 1987;123(6):743–744. doi:10.1001/archderm.1987.01660300065013