Validation of the accuracy of intraoperative lymphatic mapping and sentinel lymphadenectomy for early-stage melanoma: a multicenter trial. Multicenter Selective Lymphadenectomy Trial Group

Ann Surg. 1999 Oct;230(4):453-63; discussion 463-5. doi: 10.1097/00000658-199910000-00001.


Objective: To evaluate the multicenter application of intraoperative lymphatic mapping, sentinel lymphadenectomy, and selective complete lymph node dissection (LM/SL/SCLND) for the management of early-stage melanoma.

Summary background data: The multidisciplinary technique of LM/SL/SCLND has been widely adopted, but not validated in a multicenter trial. The authors began the international Multicenter Selective Lymphadenectomy Trial (MSLT) 5 years ago to evaluate the survival of patients with early-stage primary melanoma after wide excision alone versus wide excision plus LM/SL/SCLND. This study examined the accuracy of LM/SL/SCLND in the MSLT, using the experience of the organizing center (John Wayne Cancer Institute [JWCI]) as a standard for comparison.

Methods: Before entering patients into the randomization phase, each center in the MSLT was required to finish a 30-case learning phase with complete nuclear medicine, pathology, and surgical review. Selection of MSLT patients in the LM/SL/SCLND treatment arm was based on complete pathologic and surgical data. The comparison group of JWCI patients was selected using these criteria: primary cutaneous melanoma having a thickness > or =1 mm with a Clark level > or =III, or a thickness <1 mm with a Clark level > or =IV (MSLT criterion); LM/SL performed between June 1, 1985, and December 30, 1998; and patient not entered in the MSLT. The accuracy of LM/SL/SCLND was determined by comparing the rates of sentinel node (SN) identification and the incidence of SN metastases in the MSLT and JWCI groups.

Results: There were 551 patients in the MSLT group and 584 patients in the JWCI group. In both groups, LM performed with blue dye plus a radiocolloid was more successful (99.1 %) than LM performed with blue dye alone (95.2%) (p = 0.014). After a center had completed the 30-case learning phase, the success of SN identification in the MSLT group was independent of the center's case volume or experience in the MSLT.

Conclusions: Lymphatic mapping and sentinel lymphadenectomy can be successfully learned and applied in a standardized fashion with high accuracy by centers worldwide. Successful SN identification rates of 97% can be achieved, and the incidence of nodal metastases approaches that of the organizing center. A multidisciplinary approach (surgery, nuclear medicine, and pathology) and a learning phase of > or =30 consecutive cases per center are sufficient for mastery of LM/SL in cutaneous melanoma. Lymphatic mapping performed using blue dye plus radiocolloid is superior to LM using blue dye alone.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Clinical Competence
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Intraoperative Care*
  • Lymph Node Excision*
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Male
  • Melanoma / pathology*
  • Melanoma / secondary
  • Melanoma / surgery*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prognosis
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / surgery*