Purpose: Patients with primary cutaneous melanoma with a Breslow thickness > or = 1.5 mm have only a 30% to 70% probability of survival after surgery, and no adjuvant therapy has so far improved this outcome. Since interferon alfa-2a (IFNalpha2a) exhibits antitumor activity in metastatic melanoma, we investigated whether adjuvant IFNalpha2a diminishes the occurrence of metastases and thus prolongs disease-free survival in melanoma patients after excision of the primary tumor.
Patients and methods: In a prospective randomized study, 311 melanoma patients with a Breslow thickness > or = 1.5 mm were assigned to either adjuvant IFNalpha2a treatment (n = 154) or observation (n = 157) after excision of the primary tumor. IFNalpha2a was given daily at a dose of 3 mIU subcutaneously (s.c.) for 3 weeks (induction phase), after which a dose of 3 mIU s.c. three times per week was given over 1 year (maintenance phase).
Results: Prolonged disease-free survival was observed in patients treated with IFNalpha2a versus those who underwent surgery alone. This difference was significant (P = .02) for all patients enrolled onto the study (intention-to-treat analysis) at a mean observation time of 41 months. Subgroup analysis showed that Breslow tumor thickness had no influence on treatment results in the groups of patients investigated.
Conclusion: Adjuvant IFNalpha2a treatment diminishes the occurrence of metastases and thus prolongs disease-free survival in resected primary stage II cutaneous melanoma patients.