Effectiveness of melanoma vaccine tested

April 12, 2010 at 3:43 PM
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CHICAGO, April 12 (UPI) -- A U.S. nationwide study is under way to determine whether a vaccine can be used to effectively treat melanoma, a deadly cancer of the skin.

Rush University Medical Center in Chicago is leading the Phase III clinical trial following an earlier Phase II trial that had "stunning" results, scientists said. Eight people completely recovered in the Phase II trial and four partially responded to the vaccine.

"Very few treatment options exist for patients with advanced melanoma, none of them satisfactory, which is why oncologists are so excited about the results we found in our Phase II study," said Dr. Howard Kaufman, associate dean of Rush Medical College and the leader of the Phase III study.

The vaccine -- OncoVex -- was developed to combat the herpes virus. Researchers accidentally discovered it attacked cancerous tissue when it was inadvertently placed into a Petri dish of tumor cells.

The vaccine is injected directly into lesions.

"What really surprised and encouraged us was that the vaccine worked not just on the cells we injected, but on lesions in other parts of the body that we couldn't reach," Kaufman said. "In other words, the vaccine prompted an immune response that was circulated through the bloodstream to distant sites. These are the best results to date for any vaccine developed for melanoma, but they need to be confirmed in a larger population."

OncoVex is manufactured by BioVex biotechnology of Woburn, Mass.

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