Combined adjuvant radiation and interferon-alpha 2B therapy in high-risk melanoma patients: the potential for increased radiation toxicity

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2002 Mar 1;52(3):796-800. doi: 10.1016/s0360-3016(01)02700-6.


Purpose: Surgically resected melanoma patients with high-risk features commonly receive adjuvant therapy with interferon-alpha 2b combined with radiation therapy; the purpose of our study was to evaluate the potential enhancement of radiation toxicity by interferon.

Methods and materials: Patients at LDS Hospital and the University of Utah Medical Center in Salt Lake City treated with interferon during radiotherapy or within 1 month of its completion were retrospectively identified, and their charts were reviewed. If possible, the patients were asked to return to the LDS Hospital radiation therapy department for follow-up.

Results: Five of 10 patients receiving interferon-alpha 2b therapy during radiation therapy or within 1 month of its completion experienced severe subacute/late complications of therapy. Severe subacute/late complications included two patients with peripheral neuropathy, one patient with radiation necrosis in the brain, and two patients with radiation necrosis in the s.c. tissue. One patient with peripheral neuropathy and one patient with radiation necrosis also developed lymphedema.

Conclusions: In vitro studies have identified a radiosensitizing effect by interferon-alpha on certain cell lines, which suggests the possibility that patients treated with interferon and radiation therapy may experience more severe radiation toxicities. We have observed severe subacute/late complications in five of 10 patients treated with interferon-alpha 2b during radiation therapy or within 1 month of its completion. Although an observational study of 10 patients lacks the statistic power to reach conclusions regarding the safety and complication rates of combined interferon and radiation therapy, it is sufficient to raise concerns and suggest the need for prospective studies.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Interferon alpha-2
  • Interferon-alpha / adverse effects
  • Interferon-alpha / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Melanoma / drug therapy*
  • Melanoma / radiotherapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiation Injuries / etiology*
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Skin Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Skin Neoplasms / radiotherapy*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Interferon alpha-2
  • Interferon-alpha
  • Recombinant Proteins