Melanoma. A multidisciplinary approach for the general surgeon

Surg Clin North Am. 2000 Apr;80(2):581-601. doi: 10.1016/s0039-6109(05)70202-4.


Advances in the understanding of the biology and treatment of melanoma have moved the care of melanoma patients into an increasingly multidisciplinary environment. Surgeons must understand these advances because they will often be responsible for directing the overall care of these patients. Most patients with melanomas more than 1 mm in diameter and no evidence of metastatic disease should be offered SLNB to more accurately stage them and direct decisions about participation in postoperative adjuvant therapy trials. Until the results of the MSLT are known, the effect of SLNB and ELND on outcome remains unknown. SLNs should be analyzed with serial sectioning and immunohistochemistry to avoid missing micro-metastatic disease. Based on the results of the ECOG-1684 trial, the FDA approved IFN-alpha 2b for the adjuvant treatment of melanoma patients with thick primary tumors (> 4 mm) or resected nodal disease. IFN-alpha 2b treatment is expensive and potentially toxic. The data from ECOG-1684 do not support the use of IFN-alpha 2b in patients with node-negative disease. In light of the ECOG-1690 trial results, the role of high-dose IFN-alpha 2b in the management of patients with resected nodal disease is considerably less clear. Any recommendations for treatment with high-dose IFN-alpha 2b should be made only after weighing the costs, side effects, and potential benefits for individual patients. Numerous, less toxic, promising, adjuvant immunotherapeutic strategies have been developed and are being tested in multicenter, prospective, randomized trials. These strategies include GMK, PMCV, and Melacine. If the results of any of these trials show a survival advantage compared with placebo or equivalent survival compared with IFN-alpha 2b, these immunotherapeutic agents will become the adjuvant treatment of choice for patients with resected high-risk melanoma. RT-PCR detection of tyrosinase in SLNs can identify patients with submicroscopic nodal disease who may be at increased risk for recurrence or death from melanoma. An ongoing, prospective, randomized trial will determine whether patients with histologically negative but RT-PCR-positive SLNs will benefit from lymphadenectomy or adjuvant IFN-alpha 2b therapy. RT-PCR can also identify minimal residual disease in peripheral blood and bone marrow from patients with high-risk melanoma, but RT-PCR analysis of peripheral blood and bone marrow is still experimental, and procedural details need to be standardized and prospectively validated in large patient groups before its use can be considered the standard of care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Lymph Node Excision
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Melanoma / drug therapy
  • Melanoma / mortality
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Melanoma / surgery*
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Patient Care Team
  • Patient Selection
  • Skin Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Skin Neoplasms / mortality
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / secondary
  • Skin Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Survival Rate