SYLATRON (peginterferon alfa-2b)
Purpose: Sylatron is given to rev up the immune system in order to kill melanoma cells. Sylatron is given to prevent the cancer from coming back after the initial therapy, such as surgery.
How it works: Interferon is a naturally occurring protein that fights viral infections and other diseases. While the drug's main function is to alert the immune system to kill the melanoma cells, its mechanism is not completely understood. It is possible that it also chokes the blood supply to the tumor (antiangiogenesis) and directly fights the tumor growth. Pegylation allows interferon to stay in the blood longer, so the drug can be given at a lower dose and for a longer period of time than high-dose interferon (Intron A).
Which patients: Sylatron is given to patients with microscopic or macroscopic nodal melanoma within 84 days of surgical resection that includes therapeutic lymph node dissection.
How it is given: Pegylated interferon is given subcutaneously at a higher dose for 8 doses followed by a lower dose (which can be given once a week) for up to 5 years. The dose is adjusted based on weight. Acetaminophen is given prior to the first dose and as needed thereafter.
Effectiveness: Sylatron is effective in delaying or preventing relapse of melanoma. The drug has not demonstrated a benefit on overall survival.
Side effects: Sylatron is better tolerated than Intron A. However, it still can cause acute flu-like symptoms within 4-8 hours of injection including fever, chills, muscle pain, headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, low white blood cell and red blood cell counts, liver damage, depression, loss of appetite, and impaired cognitive function (diminished attention/memory)
Patient assistance: ACT program. 1-866-363-6379 (http://www.merck.com/merckhelps/act-program/home.html)
- Patient assistance: ACT program. 1-866-363-6379 (http://www.merck.com/ merckhelps/act-program/ home.html)