In the past decade, major advances have been made in the understanding of melanoma. New predisposition genes have been reported and key somatic events, such as BRAF mutation, directly translated into therapeutic management. Surgery for localised melanoma and regional lymph node metastases is the standard of care. Sentinel-node biopsy provides precise staging, but has not been reported to affect survival. The effect of lymph-node dissection on survival is a topic of investigation. Two distinct approaches have emerged to try to extend survival in patients with metastatic melanoma: immunomodulation with anti-CTLA4 monoclonal antibodies, and targeted therapy with BRAF inhibitors or MEK inhibitors for BRAF-mutated melanoma. The combination of BRAF inhibitors and MEK inhibitors might improve progression-free survival further and, possibly, increase overall survival. Response patterns differ substantially-anti-CTLA4 immunotherapy can induce long-term responses, but only in a few patients, whereas targeted drugs induce responses in most patients, but nearly all of them relapse because of pre-existing or acquired resistance. Thus, the long-term prognosis of metastatic melanoma remains poor. Anti-PD1 and anti-PDL1 antibodies have emerged as breakthrough drugs for melanoma that have high response rates and long durability. Biomarkers that have predictive value remain elusive in melanoma, although emerging data for adjuvant therapy indicate that interferon sensitivity is associated with ulceration of the primary melanoma. Intense investigation continues for clinical and biological markers that predict clinical benefit of immunotherapeutic drugs, such as interferon alfa or anti-CTLA4 antibodies, and the mechanisms that lead to resistance of targeted drugs.
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