Research Article

Controlled trial of active immunotherapy in management of stage IIB malignant melanoma.

Br Med J 1977; 1 doi: (Published 26 February 1977) Cite this as: Br Med J 1977;1:540
  1. M B McIllmurray,
  2. M J Embleton,
  3. W G Reeves,
  4. M J Langman,
  5. M Deane


    The prognosis for patients who undergo surgery for stage IIB malignant melanoma is poor. Animal studies have suggested that BCG and tumour cell vaccines given together may provide effective immunotherapy. To assess the effectiveness of this treatment 15 patients with stage IIB malignant melanoma who had their tumour excised were studied. Seven were treated conservatively, and eight were vaccinated with BCG and autologous irradiated cells. Three vaccinated patients suffered widespread recurrence within three months. All four vaccinated patients who suffered a recurrence within the first year died, while none of the three controls with recurrent disease died. In view of this alarming trend the trial was stopped after a year. BCG and the tumour cells may have enhanced the tumour growth, although there was no apparent reason for this. The results of uncontrolled or unrandomised trials that have suggested that this treatment is beneficial should be treated with scepticism.