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A Changing Landscape for Melanoma

Conquest - Fall 2011

Vaccine Improves Response Rates, Survival

The first positive, randomized vaccine study for advanced melanoma, and one of the first in cancer overall, has shown the benefit of using the body’s own defense system to attack tumor cells without destroying healthy tissue.

Patrick Hwu, M.D.

Researchers reported the vaccine — when combined with the immunotherapy drug Interleukin-2 — improved response rates and progression-free survival in a randomized Phase III clinical study.

Melanoma is one of the fastest-growing cancers. In 2010, more than 68,130 people were diagnosed in the United States alone.

“This is a very exciting time for the field of melanoma. During the past few years, the entire landscape has changed,” says Patrick Hwu, M.D., professor and chair of MD Anderson’s Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology and the study’s senior author.

“Now, our focus will need to turn toward studying these novel therapies in combination and continuing our quest for better vaccines. We must also research ways to make the study inclusive of more metastatic melanoma patients.”

Reported in the June 2, 2011, edition of The New England Journal of Medicine.

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