Objective: The authors describe the use of interferon-alpha-2a (IFN-alpha-2a) in the treatment of complex hemangiomas and review the role of interferon (IFN) in this example of an angiogenic disease.
Summary background data: Hemangiomas are the most frequent tumors of infants and children. They grow rapidly for 6 to 8 months and then resolve over a period of years. Approximately 5% produce life-, sight-, or limb-threatening complications, with mortality rates between 20% and 50%. Aggressive therapy with steroids, arterial ligation or embolization, or surgery has been used in these situations with variable results and high morbidity. Recently, IFN-alpha was found to be effective treatment in these complex hemangiomas.
Methods: Four infants and one child were treated with IFN-alpha-2a at an initial subcutaneous dose of 1 million units/m2/day and a sustained dose of 3 million units/m2/day for 5 to 11 months. Appropriate laboratory values were monitored and adverse reactions and ultimate response to therapy were recorded.
Results: Two patients experienced minor complications that were managed easily. Three patients had total or near-total regression of the hemangioma, one had partial (50%) regression, and one had stabilization but no regression after an average of 7.1 months of IFN therapy.
Conclusion: Interferon-alpha inhibits angiogenesis and endothelial cell migration and proliferation in vitro. The patients in this study add to the growing number who have benefited from IFN therapy. As such, IFN-alpha should be considered as a first-line agent in treating complex hemangiomas of infants and children.