A new vaccine is offering hope to advanced melanoma patients with increased survival rates and a greater chance of stopping or reversing the cancer.
About 50 patients in South Australia with inoperable and advanced melanoma have received regular doses of the vaccine as part of their treatment over the past 10 years.
Researchers at the University of Adelaide have now published the results which show 15 per cent survived for more than five years despite having stage three or stage four cancer.
About 30 per cent survived more than two years and one person is still alive a decade after his treatment began.
Associate Professor Brendon Coventry says the survival rates are remarkable compared with other treatments.
He says it’s thought successive doses of the vaccine over an extended period may repeatedly boost or reset the patient’s immune responses, leading to improved outcomes.
“This represents a major step forward in cancer control. It is proving to be a clinically effective technique,” Prof Coventry said.
“However, more research is now needed to work out how to optimise this treatment.
“For example, we believe that by better understanding how to synchronise the vaccination with the body’s own natural immune response, we might be able to lead to even longer survival rates.”
Australia has the world’s highest skin cancer rates and the highest rate of melanoma, the most aggressive and deadly form of the disease.
Prof Coventry said survival rates for patients using conventional treatments remained poor.
“For patients in the later stages of melanoma, there is a desperate need for improved treatments that stop and reverse the cancer, leading to long-term survival and improved quality of life,” he said.