Interferon-alpha is a type of medication called a biologic response modifier. It is a type of protein called a cytokine that works to increase the function of various components of the body's immune system. This protein is normally produced in the body, but in small amounts. By increasing the levels of interferon, the immune system gets a kick-start, mounting an attack against the cancer cells, which are seen as foreign invaders. In addition, interferon-alpha is able to interfere with the cancer cell's ability to divide.
Peginterferon alfa-2b starts with the medication interferon alfa-2b and covers it with a protective coating, which allows it to avoid destruction by the body's immune system and remain in the body for a longer amount of time. As a result, Peginterferon alfa-2b is given weekly as opposed to interferon alfa-2b, which is given 3 times a week.
How to Take Peginterferon Alfa-2b
Peginterferon Alfa-2b is given as an injection under the skin (subcutaneous injection), once a week. The actual dose is based on your body size. Your healthcare team will teach you (or someone else) how to give the injection to yourself.
Possible Side Effects of Peginterferon Alfa-2b
There are a number of things you can do to manage the side effects of Peginterferon Alfa-2b. Talk to your doctor or nurse about these recommendations. They can help you decide what will work best for you. These are some of the most common side effects:
Try to eat five or six small meals or snacks throughout the day, instead of 3 larger meals.
If you are not eating enough, nutritional supplements may help.
You may experience a metallic taste or dislike foods or beverages that you liked before receiving chemotherapy. These symptoms can last up to several months.
Avoid any food that you think smells or tastes bad. If red meat is a problem, eat chicken, turkey, eggs, dairy products and fish without a strong smell.
Flavor meat or fish by marinating it in sweet juices, sweet and sour sauce or dressings. Use seasonings like basil, oregano or rosemary. Bacon, ham and onion can also add flavor to vegetables.
Some of the side effects of this medication are fever, chills and body aches (flu-like symptoms). The manufacturer advises you to take acetaminophen (Tylenol) 30 minutes prior to your first dose to prevent this side effect. Talk with your healthcare team about taking acetaminophen before future doses. Taking the dose at bedtime may also reduce the severity of these symptoms.
Serious Side Effects
There are a few rare, but serious, side effects. There is nothing you can do to prevent these side effects, but it is important for you to be aware of the symptoms. If you experience any of these symptoms, report them to your healthcare team right away.
Depression, suicide, suicidal and homicidal ideation and risk of relapse for recovering drug addiction. Patients and their caregivers should notify the physician immediately if they notice any signs of depression, suicidal ideation or other psychiatric concern. Episodes have been reported for up to 6 months after stopping the medication.