New treatment options for patients with melanoma: review of melanoma-derived T-cell epitope-based peptide vaccines


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Abstract

Human melanoma represents the principal cause of death in patients with skin cancer in the United States and Europe. Tumour infiltrating lymphocytes recognizing melanoma have been used to identify the tumour antigens recognized by T-cells in the context of MHC class I or class II molecules. Such antigens include MAGE-1, MAGE- 3, MART-1/Melan-A, gp100, tyrosinase, the tyrosinaserelated antigen gp75, the antigen gp15 and the mutated CDK4 and β-catenin gene-products. The identification of these T-cell epitopes provides us with novel reagents for the development of state-of-the-art treatments and for the (Immuno-)monitoring of patients with melanoma. In order for treatments, including peptide-based vaccines, to be successful, several conceptual criteria must be met: (1) The patient's tumour must present the relevant epitope(s) integrated into the vaccine, (2) the tumour should express the appropriate restricting major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecule(s) required for patient cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) reactivity, and (3) the patient's T-cell repertoire should be able to react productively against the melanoma antigens present in the vaccine. Clinical trials implementing peptide-based vaccines or whole protein therapies have been initiated in the United States and Europe. We suggest that such treatments should include the careful monitoring of anti-tumour T-cell responses. This should include examination of melanoma antigen and MHC class I allele expression in the individual patient's tumour, assessment of the status of the peptide transporter molecules TAP1/TAP2 and evaluation of T-cell mediated immune responses reactive against peptides and autologous melanoma. Evaluation of clinical parameters (such as disease-free survival) in conjunction with an examination of immunological parameters may facilitate our understanding of the immune responses against T-cell antigens that are shared among melanoma and normal melanocytes, and may ultimately help to identify the most effective immunoptherapy for patients with melanoma.

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