Adjuvant BCG immunotherapy for malignant melanoma

Can Med Assoc J. 1984 Oct 1;131(7):744-8.


A total of 199 patients with stage I malignant melanoma at Clark's level 3 to 5 of invasion were entered into a prospectively controlled randomized clinical trial that attempted to assess the value of local and systemic immunotherapy with BCG (bacille Calmette-Guérin) after surgery. The patients were randomly assigned, with stratification by Clark's level, to receive either routine follow-up or immunotherapy with BCG, administered intradermally with a Heaf gun around the site of wide excision and then given orally for 2 years. Intradermal administration of BCG was repeated after 1 year's oral therapy with BCG. Of the 99 patients in the treatment group 66 had Clark's level 3, 28 had level 4, and 5 had level 5 invasion. Of the 100 patients in the control group, 61 had level 3, 36 had level 4, and 3 had level 5 invasion. Other prognostic factors, such as sex, depth of invasion, histologic features, site of disease and type of surgery, were evenly distributed. There were 57 recurrences of the melanoma, 24 in the treatment group and 33 in the control group. However, this trend was not statistically significant (p = 0.194). The suggestion that BCG may reduce the likelihood of local/regional recurrence has not been confirmed with longer follow-up. There were 13 such recurrences in the BCG group, compared with 21 in the control group; the proportions of patients in each group who had such a recurrence were not significantly different. Of the 199 patients 41 died, 24 in the control group and 17 in the treatment group; again, this difference was not significant. While there may be minor activity in selected patients, there appeared to be no benefit from this form of adjuvant BCG therapy in patients with malignant melanoma.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • BCG Vaccine / administration & dosage*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intradermal
  • Melanoma / therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prospective Studies
  • Random Allocation
  • Skin Neoplasms / therapy*


  • BCG Vaccine