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Therapeutic cancer vaccination against telomerase: clinical developments in melanoma.

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Checkpoint inhibitors (CPIs) have revolutionized treatment outcomes for patients with malignant melanoma. Long-term follow-up shows that a substantial subset of patients who exhibit clinical responses achieve extended overall survival. Nevertheless, most patients do not achieve durable benefit from CPIs, and improvements are urgently needed. The clinical efficacy of CPIs depends on highly variable preexisting spontaneous T-cell immune responses. Cancer vaccines represent an independent treatment modality uniquely capable of expanding the repertoire of tumor-specific T cells in cancer patients and thus have the capacity to compensate for the variability in spontaneous T-cell responses. Vaccines are, therefore, considered attractive components in a CPI-combination strategy.

RECENT FINDINGS: Here we discuss recent results obtained through therapeutic vaccination against telomerase human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT). Recent publications on translational research and clinical results from phase I trials indicate that vaccination against telomerase in combination with CPIs provides relevant immune responses, negligible added toxicity, and signals of clinical efficacy.

CONCLUSION: In the near future, randomized data from clinical trials involving therapeutic cancer vaccines and checkpoint inhibitors will be available. Positive readout may spark broad development and allow cancer vaccines to find their place in the clinic as an important component in multiple future CPI combinations.

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