Research Perspectives:

New Perspectives on the Role of Vitiligo in Immune Responses to Melanoma

Katelyn T. Byrne and Mary Jo Turk _

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Oncotarget. 2011; 2:684-694. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.323

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Katelyn T. Byrne and Mary Jo Turk

1Dartmouth Medical School and the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, Lebanon, NH, USA

Received: September 7, 2011; Accepted: September 9, 2011; Published: September 10, 2011;

Keywords: melanoma, vitiligo, melanocytes, CD8 T cells, CD4 T cells, T cell memory


Mary Jo Turk, email:


Melanoma-associated vitiligo is the best-studied example of the linkage between tumor immunity and autoimmunity. Although vitiligo is an independent positive prognostic factor for melanoma patients, the autoimmune destruction of melanocytes was long thought to be merely a side effect of robust anti-tumor immunity. However, new data reveal a key role for vitiligo in supporting T cell responses to melanoma. This research perspective reviews the history of melanoma-associated vitiligo in patients, the experimental studies that form the basis for understanding this relationship, and the unique characteristics of melanoma-specific CD8 T cells found in hosts with vitiligo. We also discuss the implications of our recent findings for the interpretation of patient responses, and the design of next-generation cancer immunotherapies.

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