DNA-based Immunotherapy for Melanoma Advances in Clinical Trials

A promising new immunotherapy for melanoma is about to start a phase II clinical trial. Called ImmunoPulse, the two-step treatment entails injecting tumors with DNA that encodes an immune system protein called interleukin-12, and then delivering electric shocks to make the tumor cells absorb the DNA. These cells then produce interleukin-12, which boosts the immune response to the tumor. In an early trial of the new treatment on 13 people with melanoma, tumors shrank in all of them and hadn’t grown six months later in about half of them. The new trial will test how well this new immunotherapy controls the injected tumors as well as tumors elsewhere in the body, and results are expected in 6 months to a year, says ImmunoPulse developer OncoSec Medical Inc.

Virus Engineered to Make Interleukin Shrinks Melanomas in Early Trial

An experimental treatment shrinks melanomas by pumping them full of interleukin-12, a protein that boosts the body’s immune response against cancer. Developed by ZIOPHARM Oncology, the treatment has two steps: 1) injecting tumors with Ad-RTS-IL-12, a virus that has been engineered to make interleukin, and 2) controlling how much interleukin is made with a drug called INXN‑1001. A phase I clinical trial showed that this treatment increases white blood cells near melanomas and makes tumors flatter and smaller. These findings were presented at the American Society for Clinical Oncology’s 2013 meeting. A phase II trial of this immunotherapy is underway in up to 15 patients.

New Clinical Trial Tests Combine Targeted Treatment and Immunotherapy for Melanoma

Pharmaceutical company Prometheus Laboratories has launched a phase IV clinical trial of interleukin, which boosts the immune system, combined with vemurafenib, an FDA-approved drug that targets melanomas that have BRAF V600 mutations. Vemurafenib shrinks tumors rapidly at first, but this is temporary, while interleukin can shrink tumors for years, but only in 16% of people with melanoma. The researchers hope that the combination treatment will both work in more people and be longer lasting. The trial will be done in about 25 sites in the U.S. and is currently accepting participants.