Background: Preprocedure clinical and pathologic factors have failed to consistently differentiate complete response (CR) from progressive disease (PD) in patients after isolated limb infusion (ILI) with melphalan for unresectable in-transit extremity melanoma. Methods: Multiplex immunobead assay technology (Milliplex MAP Human Cytokine/Chemokine Magnetic Bead Panel, Millipore Corp., Billerica, MA; and Magpix analytical test instrument, Luminex Corp., Austin, TX) was performed on pre-ILI plasma to determine concentrations of selected cytokines (MIP-1α, IL-1Rα, IP-10, IL-1β, IL-1α, MCP-1, IL-6, IL-17, EGF, IL-12p40, VEGF, GM-CSF, and MIP-1β) on a subset of patients (n = 180) who experienced CR (n = 23) or PD (n = 24) after ILI. Plasma from normal donors (n = 12) was also evaluated. Results: Of 180 ILIs performed, 28 % (95 % confidence interval 22-35, n = 50) experienced a CR, 14 % (n = 25) experienced a partial response, 11 % (n = 21) had stable disease, 34 % (n = 61) had PD, and 13 % (n = 23) were not evaluable for response. Tumor characteristics and pharmacokinetics appeared similar between CR (n = 23) and PD (n = 24) patients who underwent cytokine analysis. Although there were no differences in cytokine levels between CR and PD patients, there were differences between the melanoma patients and controls. MIP-1α, IL-1Rα, IL-1β, IL-1α, IL-17, EGF, IL-12p40, VEGF, GM-CSF, and MIP-1β were significantly higher in normal controls compared to melanoma patients, while IP-10 was lower (p < 0.001) in controls compared to melanoma patients. Conclusions: Patients with unresectable in-transit melanoma appear to have markedly decreased levels of immune activating cytokines compared to normal healthy controls. This further supports a potential role for immune-targeted therapies and immune monitoring in patients with regionally advanced melanoma.
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