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Clinical and Developmental Immunology
Volume 2011, Article ID 349575, 11 pages
Review Article

Interferon Lambda: A New Sword in Cancer Immunotherapy

1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School, University Hospital Cancer Center, 205 South Orange Avenue, Newark, NJ 07103, USA
2Department of Medicine, Division of Medical Oncology, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, 195 Little Albany Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08903, USA

Received 1 July 2011; Accepted 16 September 2011

Academic Editor: Graham Ogg

Copyright © 2011 Ahmed Lasfar et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The discovery of the interferon-lambda (IFN-λ) family has considerably contributed to our understanding of the role of interferon not only in viral infections but also in cancer. IFN-λ proteins belong to the new type III IFN group. Type III IFN is structurally similar to type II IFN (IFN-γ) but functionally identical to type I IFN (IFN-α/β). However, in contrast to type I or type II IFNs, the response to type III IFN is highly cell-type specific. Only epithelial-like cells and to a lesser extent some immune cells respond to IFN-λ. This particular pattern of response is controlled by the differential expression of the IFN-λ receptor, which, in contrast to IFN-α, should result in limited side effects in patients. Recently, we and other groups have shown in several animal models a potent antitumor role of IFN-λ that will open a new challenging era for the current IFN therapy.