In most cases, to deal with hairy cell leukemia, the cytotoxic drugs, causing the death of tumor cells, are used. However, when they are ineffective, or upon recurrence, the patients can be prescribed alpha-interferon. The action of this drug is based on stimulation of the body's own defenses.
Stimulating the activity of immune cells, alpha-interferon is involved in formation of an anti-tumor immunity. The effect of the drug is expressed in reduction of the tumors size and inhibition of further development of leukemia.
The drug is administered subcutaneously in the hospital. The injections are performed every day for 4 to 6 weeks. The treatment outcomes are evaluated by follow-up studies:
- complete blood count,
- blood chemistry,
- cytogenetic analysis.
The most frequent side effect of the drug is a flu-like syndrome manifested by fever, headache, and general malaise. In order to facilitate the patient's condition, the NSAIDs are prescribed.
In rare cases, patients can also report:
- weight loss,
When the adverse symptoms are manifested strongly, the treatment is terminated.
Upon achievement of a partial remission, the patient is transferred to maintenance therapy, which implies the repeated injections of interferon 3 times a week on an outpatient basis. The recommendations for further treatment are developed by the physician on an individual basis.