Immunotherapy for eye cancer

Immunotherapy is rarely used to treat eye cancer. It is a type of treatment that uses the immune system to help destroy cancer cells. The immune system is a complex system of cells and organs that work together to defend our bodies against disease and infection. Cancer, and some cancer treatments, can weaken the immune system. Sometimes the immune system doesn’t recognize cancer cells as different, or foreign, and so it doesn’t work to destroy them. Immunotherapy boosts the immune system to help it recognize and fight cancer cells.

You may have immunotherapy to:

  • kill eye cancer cells
  • strengthen your immune system
  • stop eye cancer cells from growing and spreading

Your healthcare team will consider your personal needs to plan the drugs, doses and schedules of immunotherapy. You may also receive other treatments.

Immunotherapy drugs used for eye cancer

Interferon alfa-2b (Intron A) is an immunotherapy drug that is sometimes used to treat a squamous cell carcinoma of the eye or eyelid or a lymphoma of the eye. It is a type of protein that occurs naturally in the body to help fight infection or cancer. Interferon alfa-2b can help boost the immune system to destroy cancer cells.

Interferon alfa-2b is usually given in an eye drop applied directly to the eye to treat eye cancer. Applying the drug to the surface of the eye is called topical therapy.

Side effects

Side effects can happen with any type of treatment for eye cancer, but everyone’s experience is different. Some people have many side effects. Other people have few or none at all.

If you develop side effects, they can happen any time during, immediately after or a few days or weeks after immunotherapy. Sometimes late side effects develop months or years after immunotherapy. Most side effects go away on their own or can be treated, but some side effects may last a long time or become permanent.

Side effects of immunotherapy will depend mainly on the type of drug or drug combination, the dose, how it’s given and your overall health. Topical interferon alfa-2b may cause these side effects:

  • eye discomfort
  • sensitivity to light (photophobia)

Tell your healthcare team if you have these side effects or others you think might be from immunotherapy. The sooner you tell them of any problems, the sooner they can suggest ways to help you deal with them.

Information about specific cancer drugs

Details on specific drugs change regularly. Find out more about sources of drug information and where to get details on specific drugs.

Expert review and references

Medical disclaimer

The information that the Canadian Cancer Society provides does not replace your relationship with your doctor. The information is for your general use, so be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional before making medical decisions or if you have questions about your health.

We do our best to make sure that the information we provide is accurate and reliable but cannot guarantee that it is error-free or complete.

The Canadian Cancer Society is not responsible for the quality of the information or services provided by other organizations and mentioned on, nor do we endorse any service, product, treatment or therapy.

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