We conducted a randomized trial in HLA*A0201+ patientswith American Joint Committee on Cancer stage III or IV melanoma immunized with tyrosinase 368-376(370D) peptide and gp100 209-217(210M) peptide to compare the potency of three different adjuvants. Patients received 3 monthly immunizations with 500 microg of each peptide either with incomplete Freund's adjuvant (IFA), QS-21, or granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). The primary end point was induction of IFN-gamma release by CD8+ T cells against tyrosinase and gp100 peptides measured by enzyme-linked immunospot assays without in vitro prestimulation measured pretreatment, 2 and 8 weeks after the third vaccination. Four of 9 and 4 of 8 patients immunized using QS-21 and GM-CSF, respectively, developed increased frequencies of CD8+ T cells against tyrosinase 370D peptide compared with 0 of 9 patients immunized using IFA (P = 0.045). T-cell responses against a gp100-related peptide showed similar results, but their relevance to T-cell reactivity against native gp100 209-217 is uncertain. These results show that: (a) QS-21 and GM-CSF are superior to IFA as immunological adjuvants for vaccination against tyrosinase 370D peptide; and (b) with appropriate adjuvants, increased frequencies of peptide-specific T cells after vaccination can be detected by enzyme-linked immunospot without prolonged prestimulation in vitro.