Around 1 in 5 people diagnosed with cancer in the UK take part in a clinical trial.
A trial to see if a new vaccine can help treat advanced melanoma
This trial was looking at a new vaccine called polyMEL to treat melanoma skin cancer or melanoma of the eye (ocular melanoma) that had spread.
This trial was looking at a new treatment called polyMEL for melanoma that had spread. PolyMEL is a type of biological therapy called a
Cells of the immune system search for and kill abnormal cells. But they don’t always recognise cancer cells as being abnormal. The polyMEL vaccine works by teaching immune system cells to recognise certain proteins (antigens) made by melanoma cells. This may help the immune system to kill the melanoma cells.
The aims of this trial were to find out
- The highest dose of polyMEL vaccine that you can safely have
- What the side effects are
- What happens to polyMEL inside the body
- The effect polyMEL has on the immune system
- How well polyMEL works for advanced melanoma
Summary of results
The researchers found the treatment helped people with ocular melanoma more than people with melanoma skin cancer. The trial recruited 15 people
- 10 had stage 4 melanoma skin cancer
- 5 had had stage 4 ocular melanoma that could not be removed with surgery
The first few people taking part had a low dose of polyMEL. As they didn’t have any serious side effects, the next few people had a higher dose. And so on. This is called dose escalation study. All 4 dose levels of polyMEL given in this trial seemed to be safe.
Everybody taking part had PolyMEL injections into a muscle, either in their upper arm or thigh. They had injections every 2 weeks, up to 3 times. They had a CT scan 8 weeks after starting treatment.
- 2 people left the trial early as they had become more unwell
- 1 person could not stay in the trial because doctors found their melanoma had spread to their brain
So, the trial team had results for 12 people. The CT scan results showed that melanoma had got worse in all the people taking part who had melanoma skin cancer. But in 3 of the 5 people with ocular melanoma, the cancer stayed the same size. Researchers call this
Tiredness (fatigue) was the most common side effect, but it was not severe.
As they found the treatment to be safe, the researchers suggest that further trials could look at having polyMEL alongside other treatments. It may be particularly useful for people who have ocular melanoma that has spread.
We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. As far as we are aware, the information they sent us has not been reviewed independently (
How to join a clinical trial
Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.
Professor Poulam Patel
Cancer Research UK
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)