This day in medicine: June 4

 Image credit: National Institutes of Health,  public domain

Image credit: National Institutes of Health, public domain

Thirty-two years ago today, on June 4, 1986, the FDA approved the use of interferon alpha for the treatment of hairy cell leukemia. This was the first commercially available, genetically-engineered immunotherapy.

Drug development was based on research into naturally-occurring interferon alpha proteins, produced by leukocytes, which were known to produce anti-viral and anti-tumor responses. 

Approval was granted for Roferon (interferon alfa-2a), developed by Hoffman-La Roche and Genentech, and Intron-A (interferon alfa-2b) developed by Schering-Plough (now Merck) and Biogen.