[Sentinel node biopsy and lymph node dissection in the era of new systemic therapies for malignant melanoma]

Hautarzt. 2019 Nov;70(11):864-869. doi: 10.1007/s00105-019-04491-4.
[Article in German]


Background: Recently, adjuvant therapies with checkpoint inhibitors and BRAF/MEK inhibitors have become available for patients with malignant melanoma and microscopic nodal disease. Meanwhile the number of complete nodal dissections for a melanoma-positive sentinel node (SN) have decreased significantly.

Objective: The authors discuss the significance of sentinel node biopsy (SNB) and early lymph node dissection in the era of adjuvant systemic therapy for stage III melanoma.

Materials and methods: Current publications and recommendations were evaluated.

Results: Complete nodal dissection for a positive SN significantly reduces the risk of regional nodal relapse. However, neither SNB nor complete nodal dissection following a positive SN are associated with a benefit in survival. With the availability of novel adjuvant systemic treatment strategies for stage III melanoma, SNB has become an even more important part of modern staging diagnostics. Thus, detection of early dissemination of melanoma cells into the SN as well as the quantification of the tumor load are decisive for further therapy planning.

Conclusion: Accurate assessment of the regional lymph node status by SNB is becoming even more important in the era of novel effective adjuvant therapies for microscopic nodal disease. Whether complete lymph node dissection is performed in patients with a positive SN needs to be assessed individually. In the case of "active nodal surveillance" instead of surgery, long-term close follow-up in specialized centers, including ultrasonographic controls, is required.

Keywords: Adjuvant therapy; Lymph node status; Regional lymph node metastasis; Review; Sentinel node.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Lymph Node Excision / methods*
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology*
  • Melanoma / pathology*
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy / methods*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*