Combining a Universal Telomerase Based Cancer Vaccine With Ipilimumab in Patients With Metastatic Melanoma - Five-Year Follow Up of a Phase I/IIa Trial

Front Immunol. 2021 May 11;12:663865. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.663865. eCollection 2021.


Background: Ipilimumab improves survival for patients with metastatic malignant melanoma. Combining a therapeutic cancer vaccine with ipilimumab may increase efficacy by providing enhanced anti-tumor immune responses. UV1 consists of three synthetic long peptides from human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT). These peptides comprise epitopes recognized by T cells from cancer patients experiencing long-term survival following treatment with a first-generation hTERT vaccine, and generate long-lasting immune responses in cancer patients when used as monotherapy. The objective of this trial was to investigate the safety and efficacy of combining UV1 with ipilimumab in metastatic melanoma.

Patients and methods: In this phase I/IIa, single center trial [NCT02275416], patients with metastatic melanoma received repeated UV1 vaccinations, with GM-CSF as an adjuvant, in combination with ipilimumab. Patients were evaluated for safety, efficacy and immune response. Immune responses against vaccine peptides were monitored in peripheral blood by measuring antigen-specific proliferation and IFN-γ production.

Results: Twelve patients were recruited. Adverse events were mainly diarrhea, injection site reaction, pruritus, rash, nausea and fatigue. Ten patients showed a Th1 immune response to UV1 peptides, occurring early and after few vaccinations. Three patients obtained a partial response and one patient a complete response. Overall survival was 50% at 5 years.

Conclusion: Treatment was well tolerated. The rapid expansion of UV1-specific Th1 cells in the majority of patients indicates synergy between UV1 vaccine and CTLA-4 blockade. This may have translated into clinical benefit, encouraging the combination of UV1 vaccination with standard of care treatment regimes containing ipilimumab/CTLA-4 blocking antibodies.

Keywords: ipilimumab; melanoma; peptide vaccine immunotherapy; phase I/IIa studies; telomerase (hTERT).

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase I
  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers
  • Biopsy
  • Cancer Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Cancer Vaccines / adverse effects
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Ipilimumab / administration & dosage
  • Ipilimumab / adverse effects
  • Ipilimumab / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Melanoma / immunology
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Melanoma / therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Telomerase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Telomerase / immunology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Biomarkers
  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Ipilimumab
  • UV1 vaccine
  • Telomerase

Associated data