During previous therapeutic trials with interferon, decreased levels of peripheral platelet counts have been observed. Taking advantage of this effect, we investigated the efficacy of recombinant interferon (rec-IFN) in the treatment of thrombocytosis in myeloproliferative diseases. A total of 15 patients with polycythemia vera, essential thrombocytosis, or chronic myeloid leukemia received rec-IFN-alfa at initial doses of 25–70×106 units/week; maintenance therapy following week 8 of treatment consisted of 20–35×106 units/week rec-IFN. Observation periods ranged from 24 to 48 weeks. Significant reductions in the number of platelets were noted in all cases; 12/15 patients achieved platelet counts below 440×109/1 and maintained those normal values for at least 4 weeks. The number of bone marrow megakaryocytes, which had been increased prior to treatment, diminished during rec-IFN therapy, while the previously shortened platelet half-life further decreased with rec-IFN treatment. During rec-IFN-induced remission, the plasma levels of platelet factors, the activity of natural killer cells, and platelet aggregation showed changes between slight improvement and normal values. Severe side effects were only observed with the highest rec-IFN doses; dosage adjustments were effective in improving or eliminating all treatment-related symptoms. Rec-IFN may prove to be a valuable therapeutic alternative to cytostatic treatment of thrombocytosis in myeloproliferative disorders.
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