Type I Interferons and Cancer: An Evolving Story Demanding Novel Clinical Applications

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The first report on the antitumor effects of interferon α/β (IFN-I) in mice was published 50 years ago. IFN-α were the first immunotherapeutic drugs approved by the FDA for clinical use in cancer. However, their clinical use occurred at a time when most of their mechanisms of action were still unknown. These cytokines were being used as either conventional cytostatic drugs or non-specific biological response modifiers. Specific biological activities subsequently ascribed to IFN-I were poorly considered for their clinical use. Notably, a lot of the data in humans and mice underlines the importance of endogenous IFN-I, produced by both immune and tumor cells, in the control of tumor growth and in the response to antitumor therapies. While many oncologists consider IFN-I as "dead drugs", recent studies reveal new mechanisms of action with potential implications in cancer control and immunotherapy response or resistance, suggesting novel rationales for their usage in target and personalized anti-cancer treatments. In this Perspectives Article, we focus on the following aspects: (1) the added value of IFN-I for enhancing the antitumor impact of standard anticancer treatments (chemotherapy and radiotherapy) and new therapeutic approaches, such as check point inhibitors and epigenetic drugs; (2) the role of IFN-I in the control of cancer stem cells growth and its possible implications for the development of novel antitumor therapies; and (3) the role of IFN-I in the development of cancer vaccines and the intriguing therapeutic possibilities offered by in situ delivery of ex vivo IFN-stimulated dendritic cells.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 4 2019


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