Sarah Goodwin

Kathi Ovnic
Holly Korschun
September 15, 1998



Researchers at the Winship Cancer Center of Emory University have begun clinical trials of a new vaccine for malignant melanoma. Emory is one of about 200 sites in the United States to test GMK, a vaccine that stimulates the production of antibodies that have been shown in vitro to recognize and destroy cancer cells.

"Malignant melanoma remains one of the most deadly forms of skin cancer today," said David Lawson, MD, Emory medical oncologist and one of the national co-chairs of the trial. "Most patients are cured by surgery, but patients whose tumors are large or who have lymph node involvement are at high risk for recurrence because of residual disease. There has been long-standing interest in developing vaccines that would prevent the disease from resurfacing."

Malignant melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer, currently affects over 300,000 people in the United States. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the incidence of malignant melanoma has increased more than 600 percent in the last 15 years and will continue to increase.

Approximately 50 to 80 percent of patients treated for later stage melanoma will experience recurrence of their cancer and die within five years of surgery. Currently, the standard treatment for malignant melanoma is surgery to remove the original cancerous tissue and, in later stages, removal of affected lymph nodes and metastatic lesions.

Therapy with high doses of Interferon alpha 2b to prevent the recurrence of disease is the only Food and Drug Administration approved treatment aside from surgery. This treatment is also associated with major side effects.

Cancer vaccines, such as GMK, attempt to train the immune system to recognize cancer cells as a threat, causing the immune system to produce sufficient antibodies to the cancer and by doing to, potentially prevent recurrence. The GMK malignant melanoma trials are Phase III studies, conducted under FDA regulation.

Patients eligible for participation will have had either a deep primary melanoma (4mm or thicker) or disease that has spread to regional lymph nodes and who are free of disease after surgery. Patients must be entered within eight weeks of surgery. Patients will be randomized to receive either the GMK or high dose Interferon alpha 2b. To achieve the goals of the study, patients will not be allowed to choose which treatment they will receive. For more information on participating in this study, please contact Carol Hill, Winship Cancer Center research nurse, at (404) 778-4907.

The Winship Cancer Center of Emory University is dedicated to providing leadership and excellence in all aspects of cancer, including patient care, education, and basic, translational and clinical research. Providing a professional community to allow interaction of all members, divisions and departments involved in cancer treatment or research, the Winship Cancer Center is part of Emory University's Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center.

For more general information on The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center, call Health Sciences Communication's Office at 404-727-5686, or send e-mail to

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