Dendritic cell vaccination for metastatic melanoma: a 14-year monoinstitutional experience

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Although immunomodulating antibodies are highly effective in metastatic melanoma, their toxicity, related to the activation of T lymphocytes, can be severe. Anticancer vaccines promote a fairly specific response and are very well tolerated, but their effectiveness has yet to be demonstrated. We have been treating patients with advanced melanoma with an autologous dendritic cell vaccine since 2001; to better characterize the safety and efficacy of our product, we designed a retrospective study on all of our patients treated with the vaccine to date. We retrospectively reviewed both case report forms of patients included in clinical trials and medical records of those treated within a compassionate use program. Response was assessed according to the Response Evaluation Criteria In Solid Tumors criteria and toxicity has been graded according to CTCAE 4.0. Although the response rate has been rather low, the median overall survival of 11.4 months and the 1-year survival rate of 46.9% are encouraging, especially considering the fact that data were obtained in a heavily pretreated population and only about one quarter of the patients had received ipilimumab and/or BRAF inhibitors. Multivariate analysis confirmed that the development of an immune response was significantly correlated with a better prognosis (hazard ratio 0.54; P=0.019). The adverse events observed were generally mild and self-limiting. Our analysis confirms the excellent tolerability of our vaccine, making it a potential candidate for combination therapies. As efficacy seems largely restricted to immunoresponsive patients, future strategies should aim to increase the number of these patients.

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