Interferons (IFNs) are a family of cytokines with several biological functions. Currently, IFNs are classified in three groups: Type I, Type II and Type III. Type I IFNs include a family of several related proteins produced by essentially all eukaryotic cells. Type II IFN has only one member, IFN-, is mainly produced by T cells, NK cells and NKT cells. Type III IFNs include 3 related proteins, IFN-1/IL-29, IFN-2/IL-28A and IFN-3/IL28B, which are produced by several cells types. IFNs exhibit antiviral, antiproliferative, immune-modulatory and anti-angiogenic properties. Their potent antiproliferative effects make them good candidates for cancer therapy. Type II and type III IFNs have been investigated mainly in cancer cell lines and in animal models. Several clinical trials have been conducted with type I IFNs; the results of some of them have led to the approval and use of this type of IFN for the treatment of some malignancies. However, many patients develop toxicity and this has limited their use as anticancer agents, making it necessary to find a way to determine the patients who would most likely benefit from IFN treatment to avoid exposing non responsive patients to its toxic effects. In this chapter the mechanism of IFN production and signaling and their use in different types of cancer will be addressed.
Keywords: Interferon, cancer, leukemia, chronic myelogenous leukemia, hairy cell leukemia, osteosarcoma, kaposi sarcoma, melanoma, renal cell carcinoma, follicular lymphoma, head and neck squamous cell carcinomas, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, lung cancer, bladder cancer, brain tumors, hepatocellular carcinoma, multiple myeloma.