Hypothesis: In patients with truly unresectable melanoma of the extremities, results after isolated limb perfusion (ILP) are absent in the literature. Complete response rates are probably lower than the reported 54% for locoregional recurrent melanoma. In these patients, ILP with melphalan and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) could be superior to ILP with melphalan alone.
Design: Retrospective analysis with a median follow-up period of 21 months (interquartile range, 9-40 months).
Setting: Two tertiary care cancer centers in the Netherlands.
Patients: We assessed all 130 consecutive patients who underwent ILP for unresectable melanoma of the extremities, performed between 1978 and 2001. Of these patients, 38% had stage IIIA melanoma and 45% had stage IIIAB melanoma according to criteria of the MD Anderson Cancer Center. Lesions were considered unresectable on the basis of their size, number, or localization.
Interventions: Forty ILPs were performed with melphalan, and 90 were done with TNF-alpha and melphalan.
Main outcome measures: Response rate, disease-free survival, limb salvage rate, and overall survival.
Results: In 45% of the patients, a complete response was attained after ILP with melphalan (95% confidence interval, 29%-61%) compared with 59% after ILP with TNF-alpha and melphalan (95% confidence interval, 49%-69%; P = .14). The time to complete response was 3 months (interquartile range, 2-6 months) vs 2 months (interquartile range, 1-3 months; P = .01), respectively. The recurrence rate and median limb recurrence-free survival were not significantly different for both ILP types. The overall limb salvage rate was 96%. Overall 5-year survival was 29% (95% confidence interval, 20%-38%). The ILP type was not an independent prognostic factor for complete response, nor was limb recurrence-free survival, whereas stage IIIA was a favorable prognostic factor (P = .01 and P = .02, respectively). Favorable prognostic factors for improved survival were complete response (P<.001) and a tumor size of 3 cm or less (P = .01).
Conclusions: In more than half of the patients with truly unresectable melanoma of the extremities, a complete response was obtained after ILP with melphalan with or without TNF-alpha. The ILP type was not an independent prognostic factor for complete response, limb recurrence-free survival, or overall survival.