|Trade names||PegIntron, Sylatron, ViraferonPeg, others|
|Drug class||Alpha interferon|
|Main uses||Hepatitis C, melanoma|
|Side effects||Headache, feeling tired, mood changes, trouble sleeping, hair loss, nausea, pain at the site of injection, fever|
|Defined daily dose||7.5 mcg |
|AHFS/Drugs.com||Professional Drug Facts|
|Elimination half-life||22–60 hrs|
|Chemical and physical data|
|Molar mass||19269.17 g·mol−1|
Pegylated interferon alfa-2b, sold under the brand name PegIntron among others, is a medication used to treat hepatitis C and melanoma. For hepatitis C it is typically used with ribavirin and cure rates are between 33 and 82%. For melanoma it is used in addition to surgery. It is given by injection under the skin.
Side effects are common. They may include headache, feeling tired, mood changes, trouble sleeping, hair loss, nausea, pain at the site of injection, and fever. Severe side effects may include psychosis, liver problems, blood clots, infections, or an irregular heartbeat. Use with ribavirin is not recommended during pregnancy. Pegylated interferon alfa-2b is in the alpha interferon family of medications. It is pegylated to protect the molecule from breakdown.
Pegylated interferon alfa-2b was approved for medical use in the United States in 2001. It was on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines; however, was removed in 2023. The wholesale cost in the developing world is between 500 and 4,800 USD for 12 weeks. In the United States this costs about 8,400 USD, while in the United Kingdom 12 weeks costs the NHS about 1595 pounds.
Host genetic factors
For genotype 1 hepatitis C treated with pegylated interferon-alfa-2a or pegylated interferon-alfa-2b combined with ribavirin, it has been shown that genetic polymorphisms near the human IL28B gene, encoding interferon lambda 3, are associated with significant differences in response to the treatment. This finding, originally reported in Nature, showed that genotype 1 hepatitis C patients carrying certain genetic variant alleles near the IL28B gene are more likely to achieve sustained virological response after the treatment than others. A later report from Nature demonstrated that the same genetic variants are also associated with the natural clearance of the genotype 1 hepatitis C virus.
Common side effects include headache, feeling tired, mood changes, trouble sleeping, hair loss, nausea, pain at the site of injection, and fever. Severe side effects may include psychosis, liver problems, blood clots, infections, or an irregular heartbeat. Use with ribavirin is not recommended during pregnancy.
Mechanism of action
One of the major mechanisms of PEG-interferon alpha-2b utilizes the JAK-STAT signaling pathway. The basic mechanism works such that PEG-interferon alpha-2b will bind to its receptor, interferon-alpha receptor 1 and 2 (IFNAR1/2). Upon ligand binding the Tyk2 protein associated with IFNAR1 is phosphorylated which in turn phosphorylates Jak1 associated with IFNAR2. This kinase continues its signal transduction by phosphorylation of signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) 1 and 2 via Jak 1 and Tyk2 respectively. The phosphorylated STATs then dissociate from the receptor heterodimer and form an interferon transcription factor with p48 and IRF9 to form the interferon stimulate transcription factor-3 (ISGF3). This transcription factor then translocates to the nucleus where it will transcribe several genes involved in cell cycle control, cell differentiation, apoptosis, and immune response.
PEG-interferon alpha-2b acts as a multifunctional immunoregulatory cytokine by transcribing several genes, including interleukin 4 (IL4). This cytokine is responsible for inducing T helper cells to become type 2 helper T cells. This ultimately results in the stimulation of B cells to proliferate and increase their antibody production. This ultimately allows for an immune response, as the B cells will help to signal the immune system that a foreign antigen is present.
Another major mechanism of type I interferon alpha (IFNα) is to stimulate apoptosis in malignant cell lines. Previous studies have shown that IFNα can cause cell cycle arrest in U266, Daudi, and Rhek-1 cell lines.
A follow-up study researched to determine if the caspases were involved in the apoptosis seen in the previous study as well as to determine the role of mitochondrial cytochrome c release. The study confirmed that there was cleavage of caspase-3, -8, and -9. All three of these cysteine proteases play an important role in the initiation and activation of the apoptotic cascade. Furthermore, it was shown that IFNα induced a loss in the mitochondrial membrane potential which resulted in the release of cytochrome c from the mitochondria. Follow-up research is currently being conducted to determine the upstream activators of the apoptotic pathway that are induced by IFNα.
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