Skin Cancer Vaccine in the Works

Metastatic Melanoma has a new vaccine in trials that is showing some success

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Currently, available vaccines include measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, hepatitis A and B, influenza and meningitis. Vaccines have successfully minimized existence of these infectious diseases.

Cancer isn't an infectious disease though. Nevertheless, a new study indicates some success with a peptide vaccine developed to treat metastatic melanoma when taken together with Interleukin-2.  Dr. Howard Kaufman, director for the Rush University Cancer Center and study co-investigator reports that this is the first time a vaccine has shown any benefit for patients with metastatic melanoma. 

"A vaccine created for metastatic melanoma skin cancer shows some success in trials."

Kaufman says that if one can use their own body's defense system to attack tumor cells, a mechanism will be in place for the body destroy the affected cells while preserving the good cells around them. He describes this as one of the first successful vaccine trials for cancer ever and provides hope for advanced melanoma therapies.

The peptide vaccine, known as gp100:209-217 (200M), works by stimulating the patient’s T-cells. T-cells are tasked with, among other things, controlling immune responses. The injectable vaccine revitalizes the immune system to notice the protein which activates the body’s cytotoxic T-cells to recognize the antigens on the surface of the cancerous tumor. These T-cells then secrete enzymes to begin their seek and destroy mission aimed at the tumor cell’s membrane.

The immune-boosting drug, Interleukin-2, helps the vaccine's effectiveness by stimulating more production of lymphocytes. More circulating lymphocytes means more cells to do the job the vaccine is instructing them to do.

All of the 185 patients with metastic melanoma in this study were taking Interleukin-2. One group comprised of 94 patients added the metastatic melanoma vaccine with the course of Interleukin-2.

16 percent of study participants who were given the peptide vaccine plus Interleukin-2 combination had tumors shrink by 50 percent or more. Only six percent of the study participants who were given only Interleukin-2 saw the same tumor shrinkage.

Participants in the vaccine and drug combination group also had slightly longer progression-free survival rates of 2.2 months compared to 1.6 months. This indicates that participants who received the vaccine plus drug therapy had more time in which their tumors did not grow.

The combination group also lived almost seven months longer than the patients given Interleukin-2 only.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 5, 2011
Last Updated:
June 9, 2011