Interferon-alpha in tumor immunity and immunotherapy

Cytokine Growth Factor Rev. 2002 Apr;13(2):119-34. doi: 10.1016/s1359-6101(01)00022-3.


Interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) is a pleiotropic cytokine belonging to type I IFN, currently used in cancer patients. Early studies in mouse tumor models have shown the importance of host immune mechanisms in the generation of a long-lasting antitumor response to type I IFN. Recent studies have underscored new immunomodulatory effects of IFN-alpha, including activities on T and dendritic cells, which may explain IFN-induced tumor immunity. Reports on new immune correlates in cancer patients responding to IFN-alpha represent additional evidence on the importance of the interactions of IFN-alpha with the immune system for the generation of durable antitumor response. This knowledge, together with results from studies on genetically modified tumor cells expressing IFN-alpha, suggest novel strategies for using these cytokines in cancer immunotherapy and in particular the use of IFN-alpha as an immune adjuvant for the development of cancer vaccines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cancer Vaccines*
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Interferon-alpha / pharmacology
  • Interferon-alpha / physiology*
  • Melanoma / surgery
  • Melanoma / therapy
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Time Factors


  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Interferon-alpha