Experimental Immunotherapy for Eye Cancer Improves Survival in Early Trials

An experimental immunotherapy designed to attack melanoma improved one-year survival, as compared to historical rates, in a small trial of patients with advanced uveal melanoma, the most common primary eye cancer in adults.

The results were presented at ARVO 2018, the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, by Richard Carvajal, MD, associate professor of medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and director of experimental therapeutics at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

Although current immunotherapies have led to remarkable improvements in the treatment of metastatic melanoma of the skin, they have not shown much success with metastatic melanoma of the eye.

“The outlook for patients with metastatic uveal melanoma, the most common type of eye cancer, is dismal,” says ophthalmic oncologist Brian Marr, MD, professor of ophthalmology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and director of the ophthalmic oncology service at CUIMC. “The one-year survival rate is approximately 40 percent, and no therapy has meaningfully improved outcomes in over 50 years.”

Dr. Richard Carvajal Describes Columbia's Experimental Cancer Therapy Program

The new research tested an experimental immunotherapy, IMGgp100, which was designed to further enhance the immune system’s attack against melanoma.

In one study, IMCgp100 was given to patients with melanoma, including those with advanced uveal melanoma, who had previously received anti-cancer treatment. In a second study, patients with advanced uveal melanoma who had previously received anti-cancer treatment were given IMCgp100 using a different dosing regimen.

Among 35 patients in the two studies with advanced uveal melanoma, the overall one-year survival rate was 73 percent, nearly double the survival rate of what has previously been observed. The most common side effects of treatment were rash, itchy skin, and swelling.

“A 73 percent one-year overall survival rate in heavily pre-treated patients is quite notable, and we are excited about the continued development of IMCgp100 for patients with this disease,” Carvajal says.

A larger pivotal randomized phase 2 clinical trial of IMCgp100 in advanced uveal melanoma is now underway to further evaluate efficacy.


The study, titled “Safety, efficacy and biology of the gp100 TCR-based bispecific T cell redirector IMCgp100 in advanced uveal melanoma,” was presented on May 1, 2018, at ARVO. Abstract No. 2926338.

The research was funded by Immunocore.

Dr. Carvajal is a consultant with Immunocore.