Possible induction of systemic lupus erythematosus by interferon-alpha treatment in a patient with a malignant carcinoid tumour

J Intern Med. 1990 Mar;227(3):207-10. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2796.1990.tb00144.x.


Interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) is currently used in the treatment of various malignant tumours. Development of different autoimmune disorders has been reported in some patients during IFN-alpha therapy. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) after treatment with IFN-alpha has not been described, although a majority of SLE patients have demonstrable serum levels of IFN-alpha, which correlate with disease activity and have been suggested to be of pathogenetic significance. In this paper we describe a patient with a malignant carcinoid tumour who developed a SLE-like syndrome during treatment with leucocyte IFN-alpha. The patient developed myalgia and low grade arthritis in multiple joints together with a high titre of antinuclear antibodies (ANA) and anti-dsDNA antibodies. After the treatment was stopped, the symptoms subsided although a moderate ANA titre persisted. However, the tumour continued to regress despite cessation of IFN-alpha therapy. During a short course with recombinant IFN-alpha the syndrome relapsed, supporting the concept that the SLE syndrome was precipitated by IFN-alpha. A connection between IFN-alpha treatment, the induced autoimmune disorder and regression of the carcinoid tumour is suggested.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Antinuclear / analysis
  • Appendiceal Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Carcinoid Tumor / secondary
  • Carcinoid Tumor / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid / urine
  • Interferon Type I / adverse effects*
  • Interferon Type I / therapeutic use
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Liver Neoplasms / therapy
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / etiology*


  • Antibodies, Antinuclear
  • Interferon Type I
  • Hydroxyindoleacetic Acid