The majority of melanoma vaccines tested to date have been antigen-specific vaccines targeting melanoma-specific or associated antigens and utilizing a variety of delivery systems and immune-adjuvants. As opposed to testing an "off the shelf" vaccine that might be able to treat a subset of patients, our approach has been personalized to the patient and applicable to all patients. Our vaccine approach consists of harnessing the most potent antigen presenting cell in the body - the dendritic cell (DC) - together with the full repertoire of tumor antigens from an individual's cancer. We have conducted phase I and II studies using an autologous DC-tumor cell fusion technique that has now been simplified into a DC-tumor cell lysate vaccine. The autologous tumor lysate (TL) is loaded into yeast cell wall particles (YCWP) that are naturally and efficiently taken up into the patient's DC. These autologous tumor lysate, particle-loaded, DC (TLPLDC) are injected intradermally (ID) monthly x 3 followed by boosters at 6, 12, and 18 months.
Stage III and Stage IV (resected) melanoma patients will be identified prior to definitive surgery and screened for inclusion/exclusion criteria. Eligible patients will be counseled and consented for tissue procurement. Enrolled patients will have their disease surgically resected and a portion (approximately 1mg) of their melanoma sterilely frozen in the operating room in provided freezing vials and storage tubes. This tissue will be shipped in liquid nitrogen shippers through FedEx to our central facility in Greenville, SC and stored frozen until vaccine preparation. If patients cannot be rendered disease-free, they will be considered screen failures for this study. If melanoma is being resected from multiple locations (primary and nodes, two different metastatic sites), then samples of each would be preferred but not mandatory.
As indicated by SoC per the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines and determined by the treating team, if a patient is to receive systemic therapy (chemotherapy or IFN-a) and/or radiation therapy, then the vaccinations will not begin until SoC therapy is completed. Once SoC therapies are complete and the patient deemed clinically disease-free, they will be consented for treatment and randomized. Once consented, 120 mL of blood will be collected from the patient and sent to our central facility for DC isolation and preparation. Vaccines will be prepared by producing TL through freeze/thaw cycling and then loaded into pre-prepared YCWP. The TL-loaded YCWP will be introduced to the DC for phagocytosis thus creating the TLPLDC vaccine which will be frozen in single dose vials. Each vial will contain 1 x 106 TLPLDC and will be labeled with the patient's unique study number.
Based on their randomization, autologous TLPLDC (active vaccine) or unloaded YCWP + autologous DC (control) will be sent back to the site in a blinded fashion. Regardless of assigned group, the site will receive 6 single dose vials to be injected intradermal monthly x 3 followed by boosters at 6, 12, and 18 months in the same lymph node draining area (preferably the anterior thigh). Patients must begin vaccinations between 3 weeks and 3 months from completion of (SoC). Frozen tumor will be maintained for active vaccines for all patients to include the control patients. The latter will be offered their active vaccine at time of recurrence in a crossover fashion. Additionally, control patients who do not recur will be offered active vaccine at the completion of the trial.
Safety data will be collected on local and systemic toxicities and graded and reported per the Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events (CTCAE) v4.03.
Disease-free status will be monitored per SoC as outlined by NCCN. Suspected recurrences will be documented with biopsy and pathologic confirmation.
Time to recurrence will be based on date of randomization to time of confirmed recurrence.
Blood (50 mL) will be collected from all patients prior to each inoculation and at 24 months from enrollment for a total of 7 time points or a total of 350 mL of blood over 2 years. The collected blood will be sent to our central facility for immunologic testing of the T-cell response.