Use of immuno-oncology in melanoma

  • M.G. Smylie Cross Cancer Institute
Keywords: Cancer, melanoma, immuno-oncology


Treatment options for patients with metastatic melanoma have expanded rapidly since the approval of ipilimumab by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2011. Cytokines such as interferon and interleukin-2 were approved in 1995 and 1998 respectively. However, the effect on survival was marginal, and the toxicity, substantial. Multiple vaccine studies likewise failed to show improvements in survival. The “Holy Grail” came with the discovery of immune checkpoints, and the first metastatic melanoma trial to show an improvement in overall survival involved the use of an immune checkpoint inhibitor against ctla-4: ipilimumab. Since then, the field of immuno-oncology has exploded, with approvals for PD-1 inhibitors and discovery, in clinical trials, of several novel checkpoints such as tim-3, lag-3, and others. In fact more than 950 novel immunotherapy drugs are currently being trialled. Recently, combinations of ctla-4 and PD-1 inhibitors have been associated with 1-year survival rates exceeding 80% and 4-year survival rates greater than 50%. In no tumour has as much progress been made in the last 5 years as in melanoma, and the efforts to unravel and exploit mechanisms used by the tumour to avoid immune detection are just beginning.

Author Biography

M.G. Smylie, Cross Cancer Institute

Dr. Michael Smylie is Medical Oncologist, Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton, Alberta; holds an academic appointment as Professor, Department of Oncology, University of Alberta, Edmonton.  He is the past Site Leader for the Clinical Trials Committee, Cross Cancer Institute and past leader of the National Canada Institute of Cancer (NCIC) melanoma group.  Dr. Smylie has chaired several National Melanoma meetings and is the past chair of the Canadian Melanoma Conference.


Dr. Smylie graduated with an Honours B.SC. in Physical Sciences, then attended medical school at the University of Leicester, Leicester, United Kingdom. He was awarded a Distinction in Pathology and received the Carl Zeiss prize for best performance in Pathology.  He completed his residency in internal medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, and his medical oncology fellowship at the University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario.


He is very active in designing and participating in clinical trials in malignant melanoma and holds an interest in lung cancer.  He is an active member of the Mary Johnston Melanoma Professorship in Edmonton, Alberta.  His major research interest is clinical research in targeted therapy and immunotherapy in melanoma.


He is currently a member of the small molecule immune checkpoint inhibitor program at the University of Alberta, and is doing collaborative research into novel predictors of response to immunotherapy.


He sits on several different Advisory Boards focusing on melanoma, and has given several national and international talks on melanoma.

How to Cite
Smylie, M. (2019). Use of immuno-oncology in melanoma. Current Oncology, 27(S2).