Background: The natural history of metastatic melanoma in lymph nodes in the absence of a known primary site (MUP) has been defined poorly; thus, treatment guidelines for patients with MUP are not clear-cut.
Methods: The authors conducted a retrospective analysis of consecutive patients with melanoma (from 1990 to 2001) who underwent surgical resection for melanoma metastatic to regional lymph nodes. Among those patients, 71 patients with MUP and 466 control patients who had regional lymph node metastases of similar stage with a known primary site were identified. Associations between clinicopathologic factors and survival were estimated by using the Cox proportional hazards model.
Results: After they underwent lymph node dissection, patients with MUP were classified with N1b disease (47%), N2b disease (14%), or N3 disease (39%). With a median follow-up of 7.7 years, the 5-year and 10-year overall survival rates were 55% and 44%, respectively, for patients with MUP, compared with 42% and 32%, respectively, for the control group (P = .04). In multivariate analyses, age 50 years or older, male gender, and N2b or N3 disease status were identified as adverse prognostic factors, and MUP was identified as a favorable prognostic factor (hazard ratio, 0.61; 95% confidence interval, 0.42-0.86; P = .006) for overall survival.
Conclusions: The relatively favorable long-term survival of patients with MUP in the current study suggested that patients with MUP have a natural history that is similar to (if not better than) the survival of many patients with Stage III disease. Therefore, patients with MUP should be treated with an aggressive surgical approach with curative intent and should be considered for Stage III adjuvant therapy protocols. Cancer 2006. (c) 2006 American Cancer Society.