A specific cellular immune response directed against a panel of three defined tumor-associated antigen (TAA) epitopes was induced in metastatic melanoma patients by a prime-boost strategy taking advantage of an innovative recombinant vaccinia virus as evaluated by quantitative assessment of cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) with corresponding specificity. The immunization protocol consisted of the administration of psoralen-UV-treated and replication-incompetent recombinant vaccinia virus encoding the three immunodominant HLA-A*0201-restricted epitopes Melan-A(27-35), gp100(280-288), and tyrosinase(1-9) together with two costimulatory molecules, B7.1 and B7.2, in the context of systemic granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) treatment. Boosts were subsequently applied with corresponding synthetic nonapeptides and GM-CSF. Specific CTL induction was assessed by tetramer staining and CTL precursor (CTLp) frequency evaluation. Within 12 days of injection of the recombinant vector, cytotoxic T cell responses specific for engineered epitopes were detectable in three of three patients. During the vaccination treatment, antigen-specific CTLp frequencies exceeding 1:10,000 peripheral CD8(+) T cells could be observed. Tetramer staining also revealed significant increases in specific CD8(+) T cell numbers. We conclude that active specific antitumor vaccination can raise a concurrent and specific cellular immune response against a panel of molecularly defined antigens, thereby increasing the chance of an immune hit against neoplastic cells with heterogeneous antigen expression. Data from this study emphasize the potency of a recombinant vaccinia virus vector encoding multiple minigenes and costimulatory molecules in the context of exogenously administered GM-CSF. Clinical effectiveness of this immunologically active protocol should therefore be explored in appropriately selected groups of patients.