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Clinical and Developmental Immunology
Volume 2011, Article ID 479013, 6 pages
Review Article

A Possible Anticancer Agent, Type III Interferon, Activates Cell Death Pathways and Produces Antitumor Effects

1Division of Pathology and Cell Therapy, Chiba Cancer Center Research Institute, 666-2 Nitona, Chuo-ku, Chiba 260-8717, Japan
2Department of Molecular Biology and Oncology, Graduate School of Medicine, Chiba University, 1-8-1 Inohana, Chuo-ku, Chiba 260-8670, Japan
3Department of Respirology, Graduate School of Medicine, Chiba University, 1-8-1 Inohana, Chuo-ku, Chiba 260-8670, Japan
4Department of Pathology, Tokyo Women's Medical University Yachiyo Medical Center, 477-96 Owada-Shinden, Yachiyo 276-8524, Japan
5Department of Surgery, School of Medicine, Toho University, Tokyo 143-8540, Japan

Received 30 May 2011; Accepted 29 July 2011

Academic Editor: Luigina Romani

Copyright © 2011 Masatoshi Tagawa 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.


Recently identified interleukin-28 and -29 belong to a novel type III interferon (IFN) family, which could have distinct biological properties from type I and II IFNs. Type I IFNs, IFN-α/β, have been clinically applied for treating a certain kind of malignancies for over 30 years, but a wide range of the adverse effects hampered the further clinical applications. Type III IFNs, IFN-λs, have similar signaling pathways as IFN-α/β and inhibits proliferation of tumor cells through cell cycle arrest or apoptosis. Restricted patterns of type III IFN receptor expression in contrast to ubiquitously expressed IFN-α/β receptors suggest that type III IFNs have limited cytotoxicity to normal cells and can be a possible anticancer agent. In this paper, we summarize the current knowledge on the IFN-λs-mediated tumor cell death and discuss the functional difference between type I and III IFNs.