What is the role of interferons in the treatment of infantile hemangiomas?

Updated: Nov 09, 2020
  • Author: Richard J Antaya, MD; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
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Initially used as an antiviral agent in HIV-infected patients, interferon alfa was found to induce regression of Kaposi sarcoma. This led to its use in treating other vascular lesions (eg, hemangiomas). Interferon alfa inhibits endothelial cell migration and proliferation and specific growth factors (eg, endothelial growth factor, fibroblast growth factor). Studies have demonstrated the efficacy of interferon alfa-2b in treating infantile hemangiomas. [90]

Because interferon alfa works by a different mechanism, it can be used in lesions that are unresponsive to steroids. [91] In fact, unlike steroids, it does not require that administration occur during the proliferation phase to be effective. The onset of action is slower than that of corticosteroids, usually requiring several weeks; this makes it less attractive for use in acute life- or sight-threatening situations. Interferon alfa should be used only if steroid, beta-blocker, and other potentially toxic therapies fail.

The most significant adverse event limiting its use in hemangiomas is potentially irreversible spastic diplegia; while most infants have displayed significant recovery of spasticity of lower extremities, it appeared permanent in other infants. [92, 93] A meta-analysis of interferon use in children revealed all cases of neurological dysfunction occurred when interferon was used prior to the patient’s first birthday. [94]

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