The two faces of interferon-γ in cancer.

Clinical cancer research : an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research (2011-06-28)
M Raza Zaidi, Glenn Merlino

Interferon-γ is a cytokine whose biological activity is conventionally associated with cytostatic/cytotoxic and antitumor mechanisms during cell-mediated adaptive immune response. It has been used clinically to treat a variety of malignancies, albeit with mixed results and side effects that can be severe. Despite ample evidence implicating a role for IFN-γ in tumor immune surveillance, a steady flow of reports has suggested that it may also have protumorigenic effects under certain circumstances. We propose that, in fact, IFN-γ treatment is a double-edged sword whose anti- and protumorigenic activities are dependent on the cellular, microenvironmental, and/or molecular context. As such, inhibition of the IFN-γ/IFN-γ receptor pathway may prove to be a viable new therapeutic target for a subset of malignancies.