Purpose and Methods. T cells play an important role in in vivo rejection of human melanoma. Human melanoma antigens recognized by autologous T cells were identified. These antigens are classified as tissue (melanocyte)- specific proteins, cancer-testis antigens (proteins expressed in normal testis and various cancers), tumor-specific peptides derived from mutations in tumor cells, and others. Results. A variety of mechanisms generating T cell epitopes on tumor cells were discovered. Various clinical observations, including tumor regression observed in adoptive transfer of gp 100-reactive T cells suggest that these identified melanoma peptides may function as tumor rejection antigens. Immunodominant common epitopes that could expand melanoma-reactive cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) in vitro were found in the MART-1 and gp 100 antigens. New immunization protocols - including immunization with peptides, recombinant viruses, plasmid DNAs, and dendritic cells pulsed with peptides as well as adoptive transfer of in vitro-generated CTLs by stimulation with antigenic peptides - were developed (phase I clinical trials have been performed in the Surgery Branch of the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD, U.S.A.). Immunization with the gp100(209(210M)) peptide that was modified to have high HLA-A2 binding affinity, along with incomplete Freund's adjuvant and interleukin (IL)-2, resulted in a 42% response rate in patients with melanoma. Conclusion. These immunotherapies need further improvement due to the mechanisms of tumor escape from T cell responses.
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