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Slow and Steady

Interferon alpha at the time of surgery to remove primary cancers could reduce later spread

28 December 2022

Slow and Steady

Just like the quiet, continuous backing of friends and family is the most empowering form of support, sometimes steady treatment is more effective than large single bursts of medicine. Colorectal cancers are particularly deadly when they spread to other parts of the body, which can happen even in patients who have the initial tumour surgically removed. Experiments have tried to reduce this spread by boosting the immune system with interferon alpha – a small protein that helps coordinate the immune system – but found limited success because of the side-effects of a heavy dose. A new study instead supplied a small steady stream of interferon alpha to mice with implanted tumours. Spread to the liver (pictured, cancer cells in green) was reduced as the immune system was better equipped to fend off intruders, and there were minimal side-effects. This approach might ultimately increase the efficacy of tumour removal surgery, keeping cancer away.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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