10-year trial of melanoma vaccine shows most promising outcomes to date

Researchers at the University of Adelaide have discovered a new trial vaccine which offers the most promising treatment to date for advanced melanoma.

Known as ‘vaccinia melanoma cell lysate’ (VMCL), this new trial treatment was given regularly to 54 South Australian patients with advanced, inoperable melanoma over a 10-year period. The vaccine has been found to increase patient survival rates, with the ability to stop or reverse the cancer in some patients.

Leader of the study, Associate Professor Brendon Coventry from the University of Adelaide’s Discipline of Surgery and the Royal Adelaide Hospital said, “In our study, over 15% of patients survived for more than five years while receiving successive vaccinations with VMCL. 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”

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

According to Associate Professor Coventry, continual treatment with VMCL over an extended period of time could repeatedly “boost” or “reset” the patients’ immune responses, leading to improved outcomes. Researchers will continue to test the vaccine, specifically working towards optimising and synchronising its effectiveness with the body’s immune system.

Currently, Australia has the highest skin cancer incidence rate in the world with melanoma being the most common, and the most aggressive and deadly form of skin cancer.

The long-term results of the study have now been published online in the Journal for Immuno-Therapy of Cancer.