Natural alpha-interferon in combination with hyperfractionated radiotherapy in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1992;23(4):863-8. doi: 10.1016/0360-3016(92)90660-a.


Our previous study in patients with small-cell lung cancer indicated that natural alpha interferon might be a radiosensitiser. In this study we considered 20 patients with inoperable non-small cell lung cancer, who were randomly assigned to receive either hyperfractionation radiotherapy alone, 1.25 Gy twice a day (6 hr interval), 60 Gy/48F/32d; or the same radiotherapy concurrently with alpha interferon. Patients in the radiotherapy+alpha interferon arm received 3 x 10(6) IU natural alpha interferon intramuscularly and 1.5 x 10(6) IU inhaled via a dosimeter-equipped jet nebulizer 30 min before each radiotherapy session. Tumor response and radiation-induced lung injury were assessed by serial chest radiographs, computerized tomography scans and lung function studies, during a 1 year follow-up period. No patient in either arm achieved complete response. On the other hand, five patients in the radiotherapy arm and six in the radiotherapy+interferon arm experienced partial response, and the corresponding figures for stable disease were three and one. Combined treatment with radiotherapy and inhaled and intramuscular interferon proved feasible but laborious, for both patients and staff. Pneumonitis and/or oesophagitis in the radiotherapy+interferon arm were moderate to severe, and only two patients tolerated the treatment without any modifications. No treatment modifications were necessary in the radiotherapy arm. The early deaths in the radiotherapy+interferon arm may have been treatment-related. The optimal way to combine interferon and radiotherapy to further evaluate its role as a radiosensitiser needs further studies in larger series.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / drug therapy
  • Adenocarcinoma / radiotherapy
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / radiotherapy*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / radiotherapy
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interferon-alpha / therapeutic use*
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Lung Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Random Allocation


  • Interferon-alpha
  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents