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Patients with metastatic melanoma experience improved survival with ipilimumab, according to a study presented at the 2010 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Led by F. Stephen Hodi, MD, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, researchers studied 676 patients with unresectable stage III or IV melanoma that progressed during therapy for metastatic disease. Participants were randomized to receive double-blind treatment with ipilimumab 3 mg/kg with or without the glycoprotein 100 (gp100) vaccine every 3 weeks for up to four induction treatments or the vaccine alone. The patients’ tumors were positive for HLA-A*0201, the protein against which the vaccine causes an immune response.

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Ipilimumab extended median survival to 10.1 months in refractory malignant melanoma compared with 6.4 months with agp100 peptide therapeutic vaccine. According to background information provided by the authors, ipilimumab removes the “brakes” on the immune system’s attack on melanoma by blocking the molecule that acts as a checkpoint to down-regulate T-cell activation pathways.

The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine (2010 June 14. [Epub ahead of print]). ONA