Abstract Background Several single center studies have provided evidence of immune activation and antitumor activity of therapeutic vaccination with dendritic cells (DC) in patients with metastatic melanoma. The efficacy of this approach in patients with favorable prognosis metastatic melanoma limited to the skin, subcutaneous tissues and lung (stages IIIc, M1a, M1b) was tested in a multicenter two stage phase 2 study with centralized DC manufacturing. Methods The vaccine (IDD-3) consisted 8 doses of autologous monocyte-derived matured DC generated in serum-free medium with granulocyte macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) and interleukin-13 (IL-13), pulsed with lysates of three allogeneic melanoma cell lines, and matured with interferon gamma. The primary endpoint was antitumor activity. Results Among 33 patients who received IDD-3 there was one complete response (CR), two partial responses (PR), and six patients had stable disease (SD) lasting more than eight weeks. The overall prospectively defined tumor growth control rate was 27% (90% confidence interval of 13-46%). IDD-3 administration had minimal toxicity and it resulted in a high frequency of immune activation to immunizing melanoma antigens as assessed by in vitro immune monitoring assays. Conclusions The administration of matured DC loaded with tumor lysates has significant immunogenicity and antitumor activity in patients with limited metastatic melanoma. Clinical trial registration NCT00107159.