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New Vaccine for Melanoma

A trial vaccine is being touted as the most promising treatment to date for melanoma that has spread, with increased patient survival rates and improved ability to stop or reverse the cancer, according to a study published in the Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer.

The vaccine, known as vaccinia melanoma cell lysate (VMCL), was given regularly as a treatment to 54 South Australian patients with inoperable melanoma over a 10-year period.

“In our study, over 15% of patients survived for more than 5 years while receiving successive vaccinations with VMCL,” says the leader of the study, A/Prof Brendon Coventry of the University of Adelaide and the Royal Adelaide Hospital. “This is especially significant when you consider that all of our patients had advanced stage IV and stage III melanoma.

“The longest survivor, who was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma, is still alive and well now over 10 years after his treatment began, which is a fantastic result for him and his loved ones.

“Up to 30% of our patients survived almost 2 years or longer. These rates of survival are remarkable compared with other current treatments. Additionally, it has not been associated with toxic side-effects.”

Coventry says that successive vaccination with VMCL over an extended period could repeatedly "boost" or "reset" the patients' immune responses, leading to improved outcomes.

“This represents a major step forward in cancer control – it is proving to be a clinically effective technique,” he says. “However, more research is now needed to work out how to optimise this treatment. For example, we believe that by better understanding how to synchronise the vaccination with the body's own natural immune response, we might be able to lead to even longer survival rates for patients.”