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Interferon for carcinoid

Men and women discussing carcinoid cancer

This page tells you about interferon treatment for carcinoid (neuroendocrine tumours).

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Interferon for carcinoid

Interferon alpha is a man made copy of a substance that the body makes naturally. Interferon works in several ways. It directly interferes with how cells grow and multiply. And it stimulates the immune system by encouraging immune system cells to attack cancer cells. It also encourages cancer cells to produce chemicals that attract the immune system cells.

You usually have interferon for carcinoid that has spread to other parts of the body. Interferon can improve symptoms and may control the growth of tumours. 

You have interferon as an injection, usually 3 times a week. You can learn how to give the injections yourself, so you don’t have to travel to hospital for treatment. The main side effects of interferon are

  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Feeling sick
  • Loss of appetite
  • Changes in the way your liver works

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the treating carcinoid section.

 

 

What interferon is

Interferon alpha is a man made copy of a substance that the body makes naturally. The body makes interferon as part of the immune response. This is when the body reacts to anything it recognises as foreign or abnormal, for example infection or cancer cells.

Interferon works in several ways. It directly interferes with how cells grow and multiply. And it stimulates the immune system by encouraging immune system cells, such as killer T cells, to attack cancer cells. It also encourages cancer cells to produce chemicals that attract the immune system cells.

 

Interferon for carcinoid

Doctors may use interferon to treat carcinoid that has spread, often if other treatment is not working (second line treatment).

It can reduce the symptoms of carcinoid for between 40 and 70 out of 100 people (40 and 70%). It may also control the growth of the tumours. 

You may have interferon on its own or with a somatostatin analogue, such as octreotide.

Read about somatostatin analogues.

 

Having interferon

You have interferon as an injection into the fatty tissue just under your skin (subcutaneously). You usually have it 3 times a week. You can learn how to give the injections yourself, so you don’t have to travel to hospital for treatment.

 

Side effects of interferon

The main side effects of interferon are

  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Feeling sick
  • Loss of appetite
  • Changes in the way your liver works

Read more about interferon and its side effects.

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Updated: 27 June 2016