Is interferon a better choice of cancer treatment?

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Mark Smit

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Mark Smit  asked the Naked Scientists:

We are told about the scores of people who beat cancer but the unspoken part of it is that, while many people beat the disease first time around, very few beat it when it returns.

1 Is chemotherapy not just one big con, in that it destroys the quality of life and seldom works in the longer term. Is it not true that, ultimately, cancer is never really beaten.

2 Is Interferon not a better treatment for some cancers. I have been in remission for 13 years from non-Hodgkins lymphoma and Interferon was the only "chemo" administered to me.  My body accepted it very readily I had no side effects and tumours disappeared.

However I am under no illusions that the disease will not

thank you,


What do you think?


Offline Pseudogene

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Is interferon a better choice of cancer treatment?
« Reply #1 on: 24/10/2008 06:48:07 »
I am neither an oncologist nor a cancer biologist, however, I may be able to shed a little light on this situation.

The best time to catch cancer is in its earliest stages, effectively when it is still de-differentiating and has not been able to fully evade the immune system.  This is why screening has been so effective at cutting cervical and breast cancer death rates, it is being caught early when it is amenable to many chemotherapeutics.

When a cancer goes into remission it is usually because it was already very advanced and on the verge of becoming metastatic, or, it was metastatic and thus has infiltrated other tissues and started to spread there.  The more aggressive the cancer the more likely it is to have advanced to the stages of metastasis within a shorter time span, again more likely to go into remission after initial successful treatment.

Primary tumours also have a source cell population of progenitors where a lot of the initial oncogenic mutations and aberrations are harboured.  If these progenitor cells are cancerous and not destroyed by chemotherapy, well then...

The type of cancer is also important, how amenable it is to surgery, different forms of therapeutics, whether chemical or radiological.  The stage and advancement of the cancer is also highly important in the final outcome of whether it goes into remission or not.  Most certainly not a cut and shut case.  Cancer is an umbrella term for a number of cell proliferative diseases that can affect nigh on any cell or tissue type, it is incredibly complex, one of the major reasons there is no cure.

As for interferon, IIRC, IFN stimulates the immune system, so in treating you with that they are effectively giving your immune system a IV caffeine supply and saying "go get them there cancerous populations".  IFN is naturally produced as a part of the immune system signalling, hence your body accepted it willingly.
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