Inhaled interferon-gamma may be an effective treatment for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), according to a study published in the Journal of Aerosol Medicine and Pulmonary Drug Delivery.

Normally, systemic delivery of interferon-gamma can cause substantial side effects; however, delivery of aerosolized interferon-gamma directly into the lungs was shown to be safe and was associated with significantly reduced levels of profibrotic regulatory proteins. The findings show that inhalation of interferon-gamma in aerosol form three times a week for at least 80 weeks was well-tolerated by patients, with no systemic side effects.

"There is no treatment for [IPF], a disease usually fatal within 3 to 5 years," says Gerald C. Smaldone, MD, PhD, editor-in-chief of the journal and a coauthor of the study, and professor and chief in the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the State University New York at Stony Brook. "The scientific community expected the injected form of interferon-gamma to help, but those studies failed. We have shown that inhaled interferon is safe with very high levels in the lungs. Now is the time to repeat the clinical trials with the inhaled form of this therapy."