March 8, 2009

Patient’s Own Immune Cells Help Attack Melanoma


Patient’s Own Immune Cells Help Attack Melanoma

Results from one patient involved in a clinical trial have demonstrated that a complete regression of advanced melanoma may occur with the use of a patient’s own immune cells.

Melanoma, which often begins in the form of a mole, is the most deadly type of skin cancer. Although highly curable if melanoma is caught and treated prior to any spread, once it spreads to other sites of the body, cure rates for melanoma remain suboptimal. The majority of patients diagnosed with metastatic melanoma (spread to distant sites in the body) do not survive five years.

Chemotherapy and/or radiation do not tend to produce responses in melanoma. Therefore, much research is needed to improve long-term survival for these patients. However, melanoma is one type of cancer that does tend to respond well to therapy that boosts immune responses against the cancer.

Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center recently reported results from one patient (case study) with metastatic melanoma whom they treated with a novel therapeutic approach. The patient had not responded to prior therapy. The patient had his own blood drawn and specific immune taken from his blood. These immune cells were then mixed with certain proteins to produce an immune response against the melanoma and were re-infused back into the patient.

  • Twenty-two months following therapy, there was no evidence of melanoma.
  • Twenty-six months following therapy, the patient had not required any further treatment and had suffered no significant side effects.

The researchers concluded that these findings support further evaluation of this technique for the treatment of melanoma. These results provide further evidence indicating that melanoma responds well to techniques supporting the immune system to help fight the cancer. However, because this was a case study, evaluation of this technique among other melanoma patients is imperative to understand its clinical efficacy.

Reference: Hunder N, Wallen H, Cao J, et al. Treatment of Metastatic Melanoma with Autologous CD4+ T Cells Against NY-ESO-1. New England Journal of Medicine. 2008;258:2698-2703.

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