Regional chemotherapy for melanoma. A 35-year experience

Ann Surg. 1994 Oct;220(4):520-34; discussion 534-5. doi: 10.1097/00000658-199410000-00010.


Objective: The authors present their 35-year experience with intra-arterial chemotherapeutic regional perfusion of 1139 patients with melanomas, using an extracorporeal oxygenated circuit and heart-lung apparatus.

Summary background data: Intra-arterial chemotherapy produces improved responses in many tumors. By isolating and sustaining the area with extracorporeal oxygenated circulation, high doses can be delivered to the tumor area, limited only by local toxicity. Drug levels up to 10 times those achieved by systemic administration are obtained.

Methods: Techniques for hyperthermic perfusion were developed for limbs, pelvis, head, neck, and skin of the breast. Melphalan (Burroughs Wellcome, Research Triangle Park, NC) was used in 753 patients. Combinations with melphalan or other drugs were used in remaining cases at temperature of 38 to 40 C for 30 to 60 minutes.

Results: Chemotherapy perfusion followed by tumor excision or node dissection, was performed where indicated. The cumulative 10-year survival for patients with localized melanomas was 70%. For patients with local recurrences or satellites within 3 cm, survival was 61%. For those with regionally confined intransit tumors, survival was 30%; for those with regional node involvement, 38%; for those with intransit and nodal metastases, 16%; for those with distant metastases and perfusion--mainly to save functional limbs--survival was 7%. Multiple perfusions were performed in 158 patients with recurrent disease on 366 occasions. Patients with indolent regionally confined melanomas were benefited by prolongation of useful life.

Conclusions: Safe perfusion techniques are available for most anatomic regions. Increased chemotherapeutic doses are delivered to isolated areas limited only by local toxicity. Adjunct perfusion in poor prognosis stage I cases is useful in reducing local recurrence, and intransit or lymph node metastases. Regional perfusion reduces the need for major amputation. Multiple perfusion can be useful in treating recurrent chronic melanoma.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chemotherapy, Cancer, Regional Perfusion*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Male
  • Mechlorethamine / administration & dosage*
  • Mechlorethamine / therapeutic use
  • Melanoma / drug therapy*
  • Melanoma / mortality
  • Melanoma / secondary
  • Melphalan / administration & dosage*
  • Melphalan / therapeutic use
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / mortality
  • Skin Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Skin Neoplasms / mortality
  • Survival Analysis
  • Survival Rate
  • Thiotepa / administration & dosage*
  • Thiotepa / therapeutic use
  • Time Factors


  • Mechlorethamine
  • Thiotepa
  • Melphalan