Discovering new bait for the immune system may lead to additional treatments for melanoma

A collaborative study led by Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute and the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute (ONJCRI) has uncovered new markers (HLA-associated peptides) that are uniquely present on melanoma tumours and could pave the way for therapeutic vaccines to be developed in the fight against melanoma.

Despite all improvements in melanoma treatment, every five hours one Australian dies because of the lack of effective treatment. A promising new approach harnesses the body’s own immune system to detect and kill tumour cells, through recognition of small tumour specific protein fragments (peptides) that decorate the surface of the tumour cells.  The study, published in Cancer Immunology Research,a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, has successfully identified thousands of peptides uniquely present on melanoma tumours that can be recognised by the immune system.

These observations have had an immediate clinical application, with the first clinical study on vaccination of melanoma patients using spliced peptides underway with collaborators at the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, USA.

The study was co-led by Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute’s Dr Pouya Faridi, Professor Anthony Purcell and Associate Professor Ralf Schittenhelm, and Drs Katherine Woods and Andreas Behren from the Olivia Newton John Cancer Institute.

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