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Is One Month of Interferon as Good as One Year?

By February 8, 2009

A recently published phase III clinical trial has found that the typical lengthy course of interferon-alfa2b (IFN) for the treatment of high-risk melanoma may not be necessary after all. IFN is the only approved post-surgery treatment for stage IIB, IIC and III melanoma,. It is given at a high dose for one month in a hospital (the "induction" phase), then at a lower dose for a full year at home (the "maintenance" phase). Needless to say, this can be a long ordeal, with common side effects including severe flu-like symptoms and fatigue.

A team of Greek researchers looked at 364 patients with melanoma for six years, half of which were given just the short induction dose and the other half given the full year-long course. The results showed that there was no difference in relapse-free survival or overall survival between the two groups.

If the study is confirmed and incorporated into treatment guidelines, it is good as well as disheartening news. For those considering treatment with IFN, the possibility of getting its benefits without a year of side effects is welcome indeed. Be sure to discuss this study with your doctor and ask if you are a good candidate for the shorter course.

If you've already suffered through the IFN maintenance phase, your reaction is probably less enthusiastic, to put it mildly. However, such is the nature of cancer treatment: doctors base their decisions on the best evidence currently available to them. That evidence is constantly changing and hopefully progressing toward the ultimate goal -- a cure.

Have you taken the full year-long course of interferon-alfa2b? If so, what were your experiences, and what is your reaction to this latest research? Let the melanoma community know by responding to this post. Thank you!

Source:

Pectasides D, et al. "Randomized Phase III Study of 1 Month Versus 1 Year of Adjuvant High-Dose Interferon Alfa-2b in Patients With Resected High-Risk Melanoma." 2009 Jan 12. J Clin Oncol. 6 February 2009.

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