New vaccine shows promise for advanced melanoma treatment

A new vaccine developed by researchers at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute may successfully treat stage III and stage IV melanoma, one of the top six cancers diagnosed in America.

The clinical trial for the vaccine will be conducted over the course of three years. John M. Kane III, chief of the Melanoma/Sarcoma Service at RPCI, will lead the first phase of the clinical trial, which will analyze how 12-20 participants respond to three doses of the vaccine administered over the course of six weeks.

RPCI researchers used new technology, which combined a 'heat-shock' protein and a whole-protein antigen, gp100. It is the first vaccine to use a whole protein, which will stimulate the immune system as a whole and may be the most effective vaccine for melanoma treatment.

"Because we're able to use a whole-protein target, all components of the immune system are stimulated, and the number of melanoma patients who could potentially respond to this vaccine is much greater compared to many other immune-based therapies that target only part of a protein," Kane said.

The vaccine is recombinant and requires no human cells for development. It can be mass produced stored in a stable state for a few years.

Kane received the Rapid Access to Intervention Development award from the National Cancer Institute, which does not have a specific dollar amount but will fund particular projects of the vaccine's development. The research will also be funded in part by the Jennifer Linscott Tietgen Family Foundation, which supports melanoma cancer research in memory of the founders' daughter, Jennifer, who lost her life to melanoma.

"When we lost Jennifer at a young age to melanoma, it was earth-shattering for our family," the Tietgen family said. "We knew we needed to do something to make a difference, and the best way we could think of was funding melanoma research projects. The Roswell Park melanoma team has an advanced understanding of this devastating cancer and is working tirelessly to improve diagnostic testing and treatment."

This is the sixth largest project the RPCI's Center for Immunotherapy has ever launched.