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SCI Clinical Trial to Test Melanoma Vaccine

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Patients who have been diagnosed with Stage II or III melanoma and have had surgery may be eligible to participate in a new clinical trial at Simmons Cancer Institute at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. The clinical trial is studying the effectiveness of a vaccine for melanoma. Stephen Stone, M.D., professor of dermatology at SIU School of Medicine, is the principal investigator on the study.

Dr. Stephen Stone
Dr. Stephen Stone

This Phase III melanoma clinical trial uses a combination of proteins associated with laboratory-grown melanoma cells to stimulate the body’s immune system to fight the cancer. The international study currently has 63 sites open, all of which are in North America. Stone hopes to enroll 10 patients in the next year.

More than 73,000 cases of melanoma were diagnosed in the United States in 2015, according to the American Cancer Society. Of the approximately 13,000 deaths from skin cancer each year, 10,000 are attributed to melanoma.

Initial treatment for melanoma is surgery, followed by radiation and/or chemotherapy, depending on the advanced stage of the disease. Interferon and ipilumumab are currently the only approved treatment by the Federal Drug Administration to reduce the recurrence of melanoma after surgery and initial treatment. “However, the effectiveness of interferon is limited and patients using the drug, have reported feeling ill, flu-like symptoms and severe depression,” Stone said.

“At least 100 patients are participating in preliminary studies of the clinical trial vaccine,” Stone said. Patients receive the vaccine injections over a two-year period. “Two of every three patients receive the vaccine. The third receives a placebo.” The most frequent problems reported by patients in the clinical trial are a reaction at the site of the injection and fatigue.

Stone sees dozens of melanoma patients annually and says those numbers have increased significantly over the years. He attributes that to tanning and tanning beds as well as recognizing tumors earlier due to better diagnostics.

The clinical trial is open to men and women ages 18 to 80 with Stage II and III melanoma. For more information about this and other cancer related trials at Simmons Cancer Institute call 217-545-1946 or visit

The mission of Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU is to serve the people of central and southern Illinois by addressing their present and future cancer needs through education, research, patient care and community service.

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