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Clinical trial to test whether vaccine can effectively treat melanoma
Date:4/6/2010

CHICAGO Rush University Medical Center is leading a nationwide Phase III clinical trial to determine whether a promising vaccine for advanced melanoma can effectively treat the deadly skin cancer.

An earlier Phase II trial of the experimental drug involving 50 patients with metastatic melanoma had stunning results. Eight patients recovered completely 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 director of the Rush Cancer Program. Kaufman is leading the Phase III study.

Melanoma is a rare but deadly disease whose incidence is rising. According to the National Cancer Institute, there were 68,700 new cases of melanoma in 2009, and more than 8,500 deaths. The cancer typically begins in a mole, but can also lodge in other pigmented tissues, such as in the eye or in the intestines. If caught early, when the disease is superficial, the lesions can easily be removed surgically. But if it advances, the prognosis is poor. Median survival is six months to two years.

The vaccine being tested is called OncoVEX, initially developed to combat herpes virus. Researchers discovered accidentally that the vaccine attacked cancerous tissue when it was inadvertently placed in a Petri dish of tumor cells. The vaccine includes an oncolytic virus, a reprogrammed virus that has been converted into a cancer-fighting agent that attacks tumor cells while leaving healthy cells undamaged. OncoVEX also carries biological agents that boost the immune response to melanoma.

The vaccine is injected directly into lesions that can be felt or seen, with or without ultrasound. The procedure is generally done in a physician's office.

The earlier Phase II trial, an initial test o
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Contact: Sharon Butler
Sharon_Butler@rush.edu
312-942-7816
Rush University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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