Intravenous administration of BCG in advanced melanoma patients

S. Orefice, N. Cascinelli, M. Vaglini, U. Veronesi

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From June 1975 to August 1977, 19 patients with distant metastases of malignant melanoma of the skin that were no longer responsive to chemotherapy were treated with BCG given intravenously. A single dose of lyophilized Pasteur BCG ranging from 2 x 10 7 to 3 x 10 8 viable units was given in 500 ml of saline infused in 5 to 6 hr. Seven of the 16 evaluable patients benefited from treatment; 3 showed an objective regression of more than 50% of the original tumor volume, and 4 an arrest of tumor growth. The objective regressions lasted from 2 to 5 mth, and 1 case had an arrest of tumor growth for 29 mth. The regression rate was related to the BCG dosage; 2 x 10 8 viable units appears to be the dosage that gives severe but reversible toxicity and is able to induce objective regression. The most responsive lesions were skin and subcutaneous deposits (5 of 7) and lung metastases (1 of 4). Toxic effects seem to be related to the number of bacilli injected. In the group of 10 cases treated with less than 10 8 units, toxicity was modest: 4 patients had fever (up to 38.5°C) that lasted a few days, and in 3 cases it was associated with shivering during the infusion period and weakness. One case only had vomiting and jaundice. Toxicity was severe in the 9 patients that were treated with a dosage higher than 10 8: patients had fever and weakness for at least 4 days and shivering during the infusion. Two had adrenal insufficiency and 7 had liver enlargement and jaundice with return to normality by day 21. In the whole series 8 patients had leukopenia and 5 thrombocytopenia for 2 to 3 days: only 1 patient required blood and platelet transfusion. No significant variations in immunoglobulin levels were observed. No variations of PPD or BCG skin tests were observed after treatment. Three patients expired; the first, treated with 6 x 10 7 units, had an intercurrent disease (autopsy showed a heart infarction); the second, treated with 1.8 x 10 8, showed a rapid growth of lung metastases and died 15 days after treatment; the death of the third patient was probably due to anaphylactic shock. All 3 patients had been previously treated with BCG, given by scarification or intranodular injection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-443
Number of pages7
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1978

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research


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