Should I Have Adjuvant Immunotherapy? An Interview Study Among Adults with Resected Stage 3 Melanoma and Their Partners

Patient. 2021 Mar 24. doi: 10.1007/s40271-021-00507-1. Online ahead of print.


Background: Adjuvant immunotherapy is a new treatment paradigm for adults with resected stage 3 melanoma. However, therapy can lead to long-term adverse health impacts, making immunotherapy decisions difficult. This study aimed to explore patients and their partners' views when considering whether to commence adjuvant immunotherapy.

Methods: Focus groups and in-depth interviews were conducted among adults with resected stage 3 melanoma and their partners between August 2019 and April 2020. Factors important to adjuvant immunotherapy decision making were explored. Recruitment continued until data saturation, with thematic analysis performed.

Results: Thirty-six participants were recruited across two cohorts, including 24 patients (mean age 65 years, 71% male), and 12 partners (mean age 69 years, 75% female). Twenty-two patients (92%) received adjuvant immunotherapy, two (8%) declined. Five patients (21%) ceased treatment early because of toxicity. Five themes about adjuvant immunotherapy were common to all participants: (1) life and death; (2) perceived risks and benefits; (3) seeking information; (4) healthcare team relationship; and (5) immunotherapy treatment considerations. Prolonging life was the primary consideration, with secondary concerns about treatment burden, timing, costs and efficacy.

Conclusions: This information can be used by clinicians to support melanoma treatment decision making.

Plain Language Summary

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can be deadly. Treatment for melanoma involves surgery to remove it and can be followed by extra (adjuvant) immunotherapy, a type of drug that uses the body’s immune system to fight any leftover melanoma. Immunotherapy can help a person live longer but has downsides or side effects that may need a person to take daily medication for life. We spoke to patients with melanoma and their partners to learn what was important to them when deciding to have immunotherapy. Living longer was most important, followed by concerns about treatment difficulties and costs. This information will help doctors and nurses discuss treatment options for melanoma with patients and their families.