Object. Craniopharyngiomas originate from the same cells as squamous cell skin carcinoma, which can be treated successfully with interferon-α (IFNα)-2a. The authors evaluated the activity and toxicity of systemic IFN in young patients with craniopharyngiomas.
Methods. Fifteen patients between the ages of 4.2 and 19.8 years who had progressive or recurrent craniopharyngiomas were enrolled in this study. Nine of these patients had never received external-beam radiation therapy. Therapy consisted of 8,000,000 U/m2 IFNα-2a administered daily for 16 weeks (induction phase) followed by the same dose three times per week for an additional 32 weeks (maintenance phase). Of the 12 patients who could be evaluated, radiological studies demonstrated a response to treatment in three with predominantly cystic tumors (one minor response, one partial response, and one complete response); one of these patients also showed improvement in visual fields. The size of the cystic component of the tumors often increased temporarily during the first several months of therapy. Three patients met the criteria for progressive disease during therapy. The median time to progression was 25 months. The need for radiation therapy in patients treated with IFN was delayed for 18 to 35 months (median 25 months) in six patients. All patients developed transient flulike symptoms shortly after receiving the first dose of IFN. Other toxicities (predominantly hepatic, neurological, and cutaneous) were seen in nine (60%) of the 15 patients during the first 8 weeks of treatment but resolved after temporary discontinuation and/or dose reduction.
Conclusions. Interferon-α-2a is active against some childhood craniopharyngiomas; its toxicity precludes administration of high daily doses, and the optimum dose level and schedule remain to be defined.