Antitumor immunity at work in a melanoma patient

Adv Cancer Res. 1999;76:213-42. doi: 10.1016/s0065-230x(08)60778-2.


This review covers the results obtained so far with a chronological analysis of the antitumor cytolytic T lymphocyte (CTL) cell response of a melanoma patient who enjoys an unusually favorable evolution. Two melanoma cell lines, MEL.A and MEL.B, were derived from metastases removed from the patient in 1988 and 1993, respectively. The patient developed a very strong CTL response against the MEL.A cells. Several antigens on these cells, presented by various HLA class I molecules, result from point mutations present in the genome of the tumor. The MEL.B cells, on the other hand, resist lysis by these CTLs because they have lost expression of most HLA class I molecules, suggesting that they were selected in vivo by the anti-MEL.A CTLs. New CTLs recognize MEL.B cells specifically, however. Analysis of their specificity indicates that they carry inhibitory receptors similar to those present on natural killer (NK) cells. These results illustrate the relationship between a tumor and the immune system in vivo over a period of several years. They are discussed in the context of the recent identification of many human tumor antigens recognized by CTLs, and the perspectives of specific immunotherapy opened up by these discoveries.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Melanoma / immunology*
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Receptors, Immunologic / physiology
  • Skin Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Receptors, Immunologic