Skin tests predict survival after autologous tumor cell vaccination in metastatic melanoma: Experience in 81 patients

A. Baars, A. M.E. Claessen, A. J.M. Van den Eertwegh, H. E. Gall, A. G.M. Stam, S. Meijer, G. Giaccone, C. J.L.M. Meijer, R. J. Scheper, J. Wagstaff, J. B. Vermorken, H. M. Pinedo

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Background: Currently there is no standard adjuvant treatment following surgical resection of metastatic melanoma. We investigated whether surgery followed by autologous tumor cell-BCG vaccination was beneficial for malignant melanoma patients. In this study we focus on the prognostic value of DTH response following vaccination therapy. Patients and methods: Eighty-one patients with AJCC stage III and IV melanoma were selected. Whenever feasible, radical metastasectomy was performed. ASI was initiated by the administration of three weekly intra-cutaneous vaccinations with l07 irradiated autologous tumor cells, starting four weeks after surgery. Depending on the size of DTH response to the first three injections, subsequent vaccinations were planned. The first two vaccines also contained l07 BCG organisms as an immune stimulatory adjuvant. Results: Induration as well as erythema correlated strongly with survival (P < 0.0001 and P = 0.0004). After radical metastasectomy in stage III melanoma patients a five-year survival of 48% was observed. In stage IV disease, a five-year survival of 34% was seen, after radical surgery had been performed. When macroscopic disease was present at start of vaccination treatment, no clinical responses occurred. Apart from transient skin ulceration at the site of BCG-containing vaccinations, no serious side effects were observed. Conclusions: This study shows that large-scale preparation of autologous melanoma cell vaccines is feasible, while vaccination results in DTH responses that correlate significantly with survival. ASI seemed to be beneficial in stage III and stage IV melanoma when given in the adjuvant setting, while causing only very mild side effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)965-970
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Oncology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Active specific immunotherapy (ASI)
  • Autologous tumor cell vaccines
  • Delayed type hypersensitivity (DTH)
  • Melanoma
  • Metastasectomy

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