The results of a large clinical trial have shown that a vaccine combined with the immune-boosting drug Interleukin-2 can improve response rate and progression-free survival for patients with advanced melanoma, which is the most lethal type of skin cancer.
"This is the first time that a vaccine has shown benefit in the treatment of patients with metastatic melanoma. The trial is an early example of success with a cancer vaccine," said Dr. Howard Kaufman, director for the Rush University Cancer Center and study co-investigator.
"If we can use the body's own defense system to attack tumor cells, we provide a mechanism for ridding the body of cancer without destroying healthy tissue," said Kaufman, who is also an associate dean of Rush Medical College and a professor in the departments of general surgery, internal medicine and immunology and microbiology at Rush University.
Researchers experimented with 185 patients with metastatic melanoma, who were assigned to either a combination of the peptide vaccine, which is a small portion of protein that exists on the surface of the melanoma cancer cells, and Interleukin-2, or a high dose of Interleukin-2 alone.
About 16 percent of study participants given the vaccine and Interleukin-2 combination saw tumors shrink by 50 percent or more, compared to 6 percent given Interleukin-2 alone.
Patients given the combined vaccine lived an average of nearly seven months longer than those only give Interleukin.
The trial results were published in June 2 Issue of New England Journal of Medicine.