Melanoma immunotherapy

Mt Sinai J Med. 2010 Nov-Dec;77(6):620-42. doi: 10.1002/msj.20215.


Melanoma immunotherapy has been an area of intense research for decades, and this work is now yielding more tangible results for patients. Work has focused on 4 main areas: cytokine therapy, administration of immune-modulating antibodies, adoptive T-cell therapy, and vaccines. Cytokine therapy is an established treatment for advanced melanoma, and immune-modulating antibodies have recently emerged as an exciting new area of drug development with efficacy now established in a phase III trial. Adoptive T-cell therapy provides the proof of principle that T cells can attack and eliminate tumors. It has been challenging, however, to adapt this treatment for widespread use. Vaccines have generally yielded poor results, but intratumor pathogen-based strategies have shown encouraging results in recent trials, perhaps due to stronger immune stimulation. A review of the field of melanoma immunotherapy is provided here, with emphasis on those agents that have reached clinical testing. Novel strategies to induce the immune system to attack melanomas are reviewed. In the future, it is envisioned that immunotherapy will have further application in combination with cytotoxic and targeted therapies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD / drug effects
  • Antigens, CD / immunology
  • CTLA-4 Antigen
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology*
  • Cytokines / drug effects
  • Cytokines / immunology*
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy*
  • Interleukin-2 / immunology
  • Interleukins / immunology
  • Melanoma / immunology
  • Melanoma / prevention & control*
  • T-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Vaccines, DNA / immunology


  • Antigens, CD
  • CTLA-4 Antigen
  • CTLA4 protein, human
  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-2
  • Interleukins
  • Vaccines, DNA
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor
  • interleukin-21