The role of the CTLA4 blockade in the treatment of malignant melanoma

Cancer Invest. 2007 Oct;25(7):613-31. doi: 10.1080/07357900701522315.


Metastatic melanoma remains a disease with few effective treatments. The anti-tumor immune response has long been felt to be important in the prognosis of melanoma, and much work has focused on harnessing the immune system to fight this disease. Tumor-specific vaccines, immunomodulatory cytokines and non-specific immunostimulants (such as Bacille Calmette Guerin/BCG) have all been investigated. A new strategy has been identified involving cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen-4 (CTLA4). This molecule is expressed on the surface of activated T-lymphocytes and exerts a suppressive effect on the induction of immune responses after interaction between T-cell receptor (TCR) and human lymphocyte antigen (HLA) molecules on the antigen-presenting cell (APC). Work in animal models demonstrated that antibody-mediated blockade of this target could lead to anti-tumor responses. Two fully human monoclonal antibodies, ipilimumab (MDX-010) and tremelimumab (CP-675, 206; formerly known as ticilimumab), are in clinical development. Both have demonstrated hints of clinical activity in metastatic melanoma. Both also have a toxicity profile consistent with their mechanism of action, involving inactivation of a normal immunosuppressive homeostatic mechanism: development of auto-immune breakthrough events (IBE). These include inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), uveitis, dermatitis, arthritis, and others. Generally, these events have been easily managed by cessation of therapy and intravenous or topical steroid therapy and supportive care in most patients, although colectomy had been required in several severe cases and there have been several deaths. Interestingly, patients who develop IBE seem to have the greatest likelihood of clinical benefit, but it is unclear whether clinical benefit and IBE are dissociable events. Other than IBE, no other pharmacodynamic measure has been able to predict response, although certain autoimmune antibody titers may have promise in this regard. Further research will confirm the clinical benefit of these agents alone and in combination with other agents, further define the safety profile and protocols for toxicity management, and identify pharmacodynamic parameters predicting clinical benefit and toxicity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / adverse effects
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antigens, CD / immunology
  • Antigens, CD / physiology*
  • Antigens, Differentiation / immunology
  • Antigens, Differentiation / physiology*
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use
  • CTLA-4 Antigen
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • HLA-A Antigens / immunology
  • HLA-A2 Antigen
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-2 / therapeutic use
  • Ipilimumab
  • Melanoma / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, Differentiation
  • CTLA-4 Antigen
  • CTLA4 protein, human
  • Cancer Vaccines
  • HLA-A Antigens
  • HLA-A*02:01 antigen
  • HLA-A2 Antigen
  • Interleukin-2
  • Ipilimumab
  • tremelimumab