A lot of people have asked about Interferon treatments. My sister, Martha, found this article which very succinctly explains what I will be going through for the next year. This may be too much info for you; but if it answers questions for one person, then it’s worth the effort.
Definition: Interferon is a protein produced in your body to help fight disease. Recent studies have shown that Interferon can also help stop the growth and spread of cancer cells.
People with melanoma who have one or more positive lymph nodes are at a high risk to have their melanoma recur. It is believed that 70 to 80% of these individuals will have their melanoma come back within the next three to five years.
Many drugs have been studied in clinical trials to see if this risk for recurrence could be decreased. Interferon is the only agent at this time that has shown the ability to decrease the risk of melanoma recurrence. The approval of Interferon was based on a study that showed a 10 to 15% decrease in melanoma recurrence in patients with one or more positive lymph nodes at the time of surgery. For example, if you had a 75% chance of your melanoma coming back in the next three to five years, treatment with Interferon can lower that risk to 60 to 65%.
"Adjuvant" Interferon means Interferon being given to try and prevent the melanoma from returning when there are no physical signs of disease present. It is like an insurance policy to try to eliminate any melanoma cells that may be present in your body, that we are unable to detect by physical exam or x-rays. This involves 12 months of treatment using the following schedule:
Weeks 1-4 (1st Month)
You come into the clinic daily Monday through Friday for four weeks (20 total days) to receive high dose Interferon intravenously (through the vein).
Blood work is checked every Monday to be sure that your blood counts are safe for treatment that week. We may need to wait to give the Interferon or decrease the dose if blood counts are outside of the accepted ranges.
Months 2 through 12
Interferon is given as an injection under the skin three times a week at bedtime – usually Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights. The injection is like the type a diabetic uses to give themselves insulin. This continues for 11 months of treatment. You can give the injection to yourself or have someone do it for you.