Adjuvant Therapy for High-Risk Melanoma: An In-Depth Examination of the State of the Field

Cancers (Basel). 2023 Aug 16;15(16):4125. doi: 10.3390/cancers15164125.


The consideration of systemic adjuvant therapy is recommended for patients with stage IIB-IV melanoma who have undergone surgical resection due to a heightened risk of experiencing melanoma relapse and mortality from melanoma. Adjuvant therapy options tested over the past three decades include high-dose interferon-α, immune checkpoint inhibitors (pembrolizumab, nivolumab), targeted therapy (dabrafenib-trametinib for BRAF mutant melanoma), radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Most of these therapies have been demonstrated to enhance relapse-free survival (RFS) but with limited to no impact on overall survival (OS), as reported in randomized trials. In contemporary clinical practice, the adjuvant treatment approach for surgically resected stage III-IV melanoma has undergone a notable shift towards the utilization of nivolumab, pembrolizumab, and BRAF-MEK inhibitors, such as dabrafenib plus trametinib (specifically for BRAF mutant melanoma) due to the significant enhancements in RFS observed with these treatments. Pembrolizumab has obtained regulatory approval in the United States to treat resected stage IIB-IIC melanoma, while nivolumab is currently under review for the same indication. This review comprehensively analyzes completed phase III adjuvant therapy trials in adjuvant therapy. Additionally, it provides a summary of ongoing trials and an overview of the main challenges and future directions with adjuvant therapy.

Keywords: adjuvant; biomarkers; dabrafenib; immunotherapy; ipilimumab; melanoma; nivolumab; pembrolizumab; targeted therapy; trametinib.

Publication types

  • Review

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.