A trial of vaccine treatment for melanoma that has spread

Cancer type:

Skin cancer




Phase 1

This trial looked at a new vaccine for melanoma that has spread to another part of the body.

Melanoma skin cancer is usually treated with surgery. But sometimes melanoma cannot be completely removed with surgery because it has spread to another part of the body. Even when it is completely removed, it can sometimes come back (recur) after surgery. If this happens, doctors may use other treatments, but they don’t always work very well.

More about this trial

This trial was looking at a new combination vaccine treatment for people with melanoma that had spread. Vaccine therapy is a type of immunotherapy. The aim was for the vaccine to stimulate the body’s own immune system Open a glossary item to try and kill the cancer cells. The new vaccine in this trial was a combination of 2 parts, pSG2.Mel3 and MVA.Mel3. The Mel3 piece of the vaccine had proteins like those seen on melanoma cells. So the aim of the vaccine was to stimulate the immune response against these proteins.

The vaccine method used is known as ‘prime-boost’. The researchers hoped that the first part, pSG2.Mel3, would prepare the immune system to take action against the melanoma cells. And the MVA.Mel3 part would boost this action and strengthen the body’s immune response to the cancer cells.

This was a phase 1 trial. That means it was experimental research. Doctors didn’t know how well the vaccine would work.

Only patients with a certain protein in their blood (called HLA.A2) were able to take part.

Summary of results

The trial team found that the vaccine treatment caused very few side effects and the body’s immune system was stimulated in most of the people who had the vaccine.

This trial recruited 41 people. They were 2 groups. The first group had 5 people and they had the vaccinations with MVA.Mel3 only. The other 36 people had 1 or 2 doses of pSG2.Mel3 followed by vaccinations with MVA.Mel3 at various doses. The researchers used 2 different tests to look at the response of the immune system to the vaccine combination. Of the 41 people who had the vaccine, the researchers were able to examine the immune response of 36 people.

Of these 36 people, the 2 different tests showed the immune response was present in 24 (67%) and 11 (31%) to Mel3, the group of melanoma proteins targeted by the vaccine. They also found that the combination of the 2 parts of the vaccine at the high doses gave the best immune response. The people who had the stronger immune response may have survived a bit longer because of this. But to make sure that this is the case, the researchers need to do a trial with a much larger number of people.

The most common side effects of the vaccine combination were skin reactions at the injection site and flu like symptoms.

The researchers concluded that there was a good immune system response to the vaccine combination. And that it did not cause many side effects. They say there should be further trials looking at this treatment with more people.

We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

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.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Professor Robert Hawkins

Supported by

Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
Oxxon Therapeutics

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:


Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Wendy took part in a new trial studying the possible side effect of hearing loss

A picture of Wendy

"I was delighted to take part in a clinical trial as it has the potential to really help others in the future.”

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