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Researcher in the Moffitt immunotherapy lab

Metastatic melanoma—the most advanced stage of melanoma, where the cancer has spread from the skin to other areas of the body—has traditionally been treated with a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy and limb infusion and perfusion. However, in some cases, the malignancy does not respond to these treatments. Fortunately, recent studies show that tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) therapy holds promise for treating refractory metastatic melanoma.

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What is TIL therapy?

Before discussing how TIL therapy can be used to treat metastatic melanoma, it may be helpful to explain what TILs are and what this form of treatment generally involves. TILs (also known as "T lymphocytes" or "T cells") are immune cells that are made in bone marrow and found within blood and lymph tissue. Unlike B lymphocytes, which produce antibodies, TILs recognize and destroy cancer cells.

During TIL therapy, clinicians surgically remove a tumor from the patient’s body, dissect the tumor to remove TILs that have penetrated it and then multiply the collected TILs in a laboratory. Once the TILs have grown to a sufficient number, the clinicians infuse them back into the patient’s body, where they actively destroy cancer cells and leave healthy cells unharmed.

Can TIL therapy be used to treat metastatic melanoma?

A revolutionary clinical trial was recently performed to evaluate the effects of lifileucel (LN-144, an autologous TIL therapy) in patients with advanced melanoma. The researchers found that lifileucel “demonstrated durable responses and addresses a major unmet need in patients with metastatic melanoma with limited treatment options after approved therapy, including the primary refractory to anti-PD-1 or PD-L1 therapy subset.”

As of February 2024, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved this first-of-its-kind  immunotherapy pioneered at Moffitt for patients with advanced melanoma.

Before and after pictures of a patient with advanced melanoma
Before and after pictures of a patient with advanced
melanoma who underwent TIL treatment. Photo from National Cancer Institute

Moffitt's contribution to metastatic melanoma TIL therapy

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we're proud to be at the forefront of cancer research. We recognize the importance of clinical trials, and we use these studies to develop new and improved ways to prevent, screen for, diagnose and treat a wide array of malignancies. In fact, we’re home to the largest clinical cancer research unit in Florida, with more than 350 active clinical trials.

Moffitt was a driving force in getting lifileucel (Amtagvi) FDA-approved for the treatment of adult patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma previously treated with a PD-1 blocking antibody, and if BRAF V600 mutation positive, a BRAF inhibitor with or without a MEK inhibitor. And we will continue to lead in expanding immunotherapy options for patients. 

As with the various other types of cancer we treat, we're pleased to use clinical trials in our fight against metastatic melanoma. Moffitt has served as the lead flagship center in clinical trials evaluating the effects of lifileucel and other TIL therapies in patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma. 

Medically reviewed by John Mullinax, MD

If you would like to know more about Moffitt Cancer Center or how TIL therapy is being used to treat metastatic melanoma, contact us today. You can reach us by calling 1-888-663-3488 or filling out our new patient registration form online (no referral is needed). Once you do, we’ll connect you to a cancer expert as soon as possible.

References Expanded Access Program of Lifileucel (LN-144) in Patients With Unresectable or Metastatic Melanoma Lifileucel, a Tumor-Infiltrating Lymphocyte Therapy, in Metastatic Melanoma