Vaccine attacks melanoma

August 9, 2010

A new vaccine is being tested around the country to treat advanced melanoma.

The first sign of melanoma is often a change in the size, shape, or color of a mole. However, melanoma can also appear on the body as a new mole. According to the American Cancer Society, there were 68,700 news cases of melanoma in 2009 and more than 8,500 deaths.

TREATMENT: According to the Melanoma Center, the standard treatment is surgery to remove the tumor and a surrounding area of normal-appearing skin. Sometimes, surgery is followed by additional therapy such as immunotherapy, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of these treatments.

In men, melanoma most often shows up on the upper body, between the shoulders and hips and on the head and neck. In women, it often develops on the lower legs. In dark-skinned people, melanoma often appears under the fingernails or toenails, on the palms of hands or on the soles of the feet. Although these are the most common places for melanomas to appear, they can appear anywhere on the skin. Doctors recommend checking your body regularly for new moles or changes in moles.

With early diagnosis and treatment, the chances of recovery are very good. If it is not found early, melanoma can grow deeper into the skin and spread to other parts of the body. This spread is called metastasis. Once the cancer spreads, it's difficult to treat. Life expectancy can be anywhere from six months to two years.

NEW VACCINE: A new vaccine is being tested around the country to treat advanced melanoma. It's called OncoVEX. It's currently having very positive results and is in the third phase of the study. In phase two, involving 50 patients with metastatic melanoma, eight recovered completely and four partially responded to the vaccine. The vaccine was initially developed to combat the herpes virus. Researchers discovered accidentally that the vaccine attacked cancerous tissue when it was inadvertently placed in a Petri dish of tumor cells. OncoVEX includes an oncolytic virus -- a reprogrammed virus that has been converted into a cancer-fighting agent that attacks cancer and leaves healthy cells alone.


Darilyn Greenhow
Researcher Coordinator
Rush University Medical Center
Chicago, IL
(312) 563-2330

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