According to a study published in the January 15, 2003 issue of Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the scientists showed that patient survival improved significantly if their tumors expressed higher levels for these markers, known as melanoma-associated antigens (MAAs).
"This investigation has provided a major clue why a certain subset of advanced melanoma patients, about 10 percent of these patients, survive longer than others," said Dr. Dave S. B. Hoon, director of molecular oncology at the JWCI and the study's principal investigator.
"It also indicates that active-specific immunotherapy such as vaccines against melanoma may be particularly effective in this same group of patients."
More than 40,000 new cases and 7,000 deaths will occur this year in the U.S. from melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. As such, it is the fifth most common cancer in the nation.
If diagnosed and treated early, the cure rate for melanoma is high. But if it is not removed at an early stage, cancer cells may grow and invade healthy tissue below the skin surface and spread to other parts of the body. The most advanced form of the disease, stage IV tumors that spread to distant organs, has proved resistant to standard treatments of chemo- and radiotherapy. The five-year survival rate among these patients is about five percent.
For this reason, new approaches are under investigation including the use of melanoma vaccines that enhance the body's immune response to specific protein melanoma-associated antigens expressed by tumors.
In their study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute, the JWCI scientists surgically removed tumor sampl
Contact: Warren Froelich
American Association for Cancer Research