Interferon alpha

Interferon alpha is a protein normally made by the body during viral infections, such as flu. It can also be made outside the body. If other treatments haven’t worked, some people are occasionally given interferon alpha in the chronic phase of CML. Doctors may also use it for women who need treatment and are pregnant or want to become pregnant.

You have interferon alpha as an injection under the skin (subcutaneously) using a very fine needle. The injections are slightly uncomfortable. You or a relative or friend can be taught how to give these injections so you can have them at home.

Side effects

Interferon alpha can cause various side effects. Some are similar to the symptoms of flu. They include:

  • chills
  • fever
  • depression
  • weight loss
  • headaches
  • aching in the back, joints and muscles
  • tiredness.

Some of these side effects can be reduced by taking a mild painkiller, such as paracetamol, before the injection and before you go to bed. Your doctor can give you further advice.

The side effects are most noticeable with the first one or two injections, and usually wear off after that. However, the tiredness may continue.

Back to Treating

Making treatment decisions

Your doctors may tell you there are different options for your treatment. Having the right information will help you make the right decision for you.


Chemotherapy uses drugs to treat leukaemia. It is most commonly given as an injection into a vein or as tablets or capsules.

Clinical trials

Many people are offered a trial as part of treatment. Find out more to help you decide if a trial is right for you.

Life after treatment for CML

You might be thinking about how to get back to normal following treatment. Find advice, information and support about coping with and after treatment for leukaemia.