Melan-A-specific Cytotoxic T Cells Are Associated with Tumor Regression and Autoimmunity Following Treatment with Anti-CTLA-4 Academic Article uri icon


  • PURPOSE: Ipilimumab is a monoclonal antibody that blocks the immune-inhibitory interaction between CTL antigen 4 (CTLA-4) and its ligands on T cells. Clinical trials in cancer patients with ipilimumab have shown promising antitumor activity, particularly in patients with advanced melanoma. Often, tumor regressions in these patients are correlated with immune-related side effects such as dermatitis, enterocolitis, and hypophysitis. Although these reactions are believed to be immune-mediated, the antigenic targets for the cellular or humoral immune response are not known. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: We enrolled patients with advanced melanoma in a phase II study with ipilimumab. One of these patients experienced a complete remission of his tumor. The specificity and functional properties of CD8-positive T cells in his peripheral blood, in regressing tumor tissue, and at the site of an immune-mediated skin rash were investigated. RESULTS: Regressing tumor tissue was infiltrated with CD8-positive T cells, a high proportion of which were specific for Melan-A. The skin rash was similarly infiltrated with Melan-A-specific CD8-positive T cells, and a dramatic (>30-fold) increase in Melan-A-specific CD8-positive T cells was apparent in peripheral blood. These cells had an effector phenotype and lysed Melan-A-expressing tumor cells. CONCLUSIONS: Our results show that Melan-A may be a major target for both the autoimmune and antitumor reactions in patients treated with anti-CTLA-4, and describe for the first time the antigen specificity of CD8-positive T cells that mediate tumor rejection in a patient undergoing treatment with an anti-CTLA-4 antibody. These findings may allow a better integration of ipilimumab into other forms of immunotherapy.


  • Klein, O
  • Ebert, LM
  • Nicholaou, T
  • Browning, J
  • Russell, SE
  • Zuber, M
  • Jackson, HM
  • Dimopoulos, N
  • Tan, BS
  • Hoos, A
  • Luescher, IF
  • Davis, ID
  • Chen, W
  • Cebon, J

publication date

  • April 1, 2009