WEDNESDAY, Oct. 22, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Melanoma patients treated with a special tumor-fighting T-cell have a greater chance to survive the disease without relapse, a new study says.
A French research team, led by Nathalie Labarriere, used adoptive immunotherapy, a process in which natural cancer-fighting T-cells are removed from the tumor of a patient with late-stage melanoma. The T-cells are put in culture dishes and allowed to expand in number, and then re-infused into the patient.
This strategy, detailed online Oct. 20 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, caused tumor regression in about half the patients treated, some of whom survived for years without relapse.
Those in the study, who received adoptive immunotherapy between 1994 and 1998, and remained tumor-free for more than a decade, had naturally arising T-cells in their systems that recognized a new protein, called "meloe-1." Meloe-1, the researchers found, is highly expressed in melanoma cells but not in normal skin cells or in other types of cancer.
Meloe-1-specific T-cells were found in five of the nine relapse-free patients but not in any of the 21 patients who relapsed. This suggests that amplifying these meloe-1-specific T-cells in a lab setting may be one way to improve the success of adoptive immunotherapy, the researchers said.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about melanoma.