Relationship between immune response to melanoma vaccine immunization and clinical outcome in stage II malignant melanoma



The authors investigated whether there was a relationship between the induction of a delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) response to melanoma vaccine immunization and disease recurrence. They studied prospectively 94 evaluable patients with surgically resected Stage II malignant melanoma who were immunized to a partially purified, polyvalent, melanoma antigen vaccine. The DTH response to skin tests to the vaccine was measured before treatment and at the fourth vaccine immunization. Vaccine treatment induced a strong DTH response in 29 (31%) patients, an intermediate response in 24 (25%), and no response in 41 (44%). The median disease-free survival (DFS) of patients with a strong, intermediate, and no DTH response to vaccine immunization was more than 72 months, 24 months, and 15 months, respectively. The relationship between an increase in the DTH response and a prolonged DFS was statistically significant (P = 0.02); clinically meaningful (the median DFS of patients with a strong DTH response was 4.7 years longer than that of nonresponders); and, by multivariate analysis, independent of disease severity or overall immune competence. These findings suggest, but do not prove, that vaccine treatment can slow the progression of melanoma in some patients.