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Specific antitumor immune responses require expression of MHC class I or II molecules on tumor cells, and MHC antigen down-regulation is a presumed tumor growth promoting mechanism. Because IFN-γ up-regulates tumor MHC antigen expression in vitro, in this Phase II trial of an immunologically active dose and schedule we evaluated whether this was the case in vivo. Twenty-three patients with metastatic melanoma were treated with IFN-γ 100 μg/m2 s.c. once weekly for a maximum of 6 months. There were three complete responses, now maintained for 53, 36, and 25 months. The remainder had progressive disease. The treatment was well tolerated, with no toxicity exceeding National Cancer Institute Common Toxicity Criteria grade II. Immunohistochemical analysis of tumor biopsies during treatment was performed using monoclonal antibodies to HLA class I (W/632) and class II (CR3/43) monomorphic determinants. HLA class I was down-regulated in 2 of 19 patients pretreatment and up-regulated by IFN-γ in both. HLA class II was down-regulated pretreatment in 14 of 18 patients and upregulated by IFN-γ in 6 (43%). The HLA up-regulation persisted throughout the study. IFN-γ induced significant but short-lived up-regulation of surrogate markers of monocyte activation (serum neopterin) and class I up-regulation (serum β-2-microglobulin) in most patients. There was no consistent relationship between surrogate marker up-regulation, tumor antigen up-regulation, and responses. The study shows that the significant immune modulation induced by IFN-γ does not correlate with tumor responses and that the serum surrogate marker changes do not reflect tumor events. The durable and long-lived responses, clear demonstration of tumor MHC up-regulation, and low toxicity suggest that weekly IFN-γ 100 μg/m2 would be a useful addition to chemoimmunotherapeutic regimens. © 2003, American Association for Cancer Research. All rights reserved.


Journal article


Clinical Cancer Research

Publication Date





84 - 92