New vaccine for melanoma clears Phase III study

A new vaccine from Amgen developed to target melanoma showed strong results in a Phase III study involving 295 patients:

The drug, talimogene laherparepvec, also known as T-vec, is an engineered virus designed to replicate inside the injected tumor, killing cancer cells there, as well as prime the immune system to attack other cancer cells around body.

Dr. Robert Andtbacka, one of the study’s lead investigators, in a telephone interview, called the results “very encouraging.”

Amgen last year released initial data from the 295-patient Phase III study showing that T-vec succeeded in demonstrating a significant tumor response that lasted at least six months. The latest data analyzed 4,000 tumor lesions to study the response to the drug in injected versus non-injected tumors.

Of the directly injected tumors, 64 percent shrank by at least half, and 47 percent of those had a complete response, meaning the lesion had disappeared, researchers said.

Of the uninjected lesions in the skin or lymph nodes, known as non-visceral tumor lesions, 34 percent shrank by at least half with a complete response seen in 21 percent of those.

Melanoma is one of the most aggressive forms of skin cancer. The World Health Organization reports approximately 132,000 cases a year.