New perspectives on the role of vitiligo in immune responses to melanoma

Oncotarget. 2011 Sep;2(9):684-94. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.323.


Melanoma-associated vitiligo is the best-studied example of the linkage between tumor immunity and autoimmunity. Although vitiligo is an independent positive prognostic factor for melanoma patients, the autoimmune destruction of melanocytes was long thought to be merely a side effect of robust anti-tumor immunity. However, new data reveal a key role for vitiligo in supporting T cell responses to melanoma. This research perspective reviews the history of melanoma-associated vitiligo in patients, the experimental studies that form the basis for understanding this relationship, and the unique characteristics of melanoma-specific CD8 T cells found in hosts with vitiligo. We also discuss the implications of our recent findings for the interpretation of patient responses, and the design of next-generation cancer immunotherapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmunity / immunology
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Melanoma / immunology*
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Melanoma / therapy
  • Skin Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / therapy
  • Vitiligo / immunology*
  • Vitiligo / pathology
  • Vitiligo / therapy


  • Cancer Vaccines