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Who Benefits Most From Adjuvant Interferon Treatment for Melanoma?

Gogas, Helen MD; Abali, Huseyin MD; Ascierto, Paolo A. MD; Demidov, Lev MD, PhD; Pehamberger, Hubert MD; Robert, Caroline MD, PhD; Schachter, Jacob MD, PhD; Eggermont, Alexander M. M. MD, PhD; Hauschild, Axel MD; Espinosa, Enrique MD

doi: 10.1097/MJT.0b013e31829e883d
Melanoma Symposium

Metastatic melanoma has a poor prognosis; the median survival for patients with stage IV melanoma ranges from 8 to 18 months after diagnosis. Interferon-α provides significant improvement in disease-free survival at the cost of poor tolerability. Identifying patients who benefit the most may improve the cost:benefit ratio. In addition, no data exist for the role of adjuvant therapy in noncutaneous melanoma. Molecular profiles may help to identify patients who benefit the most from adjuvant interferon therapy. In this review, the American Joint Commission on Cancer 2009 staging criteria and emerging biomarker data to guide adjuvant treatment decisions will be discussed. Several criteria to guide selection of patients are discussed in detail. These include Breslow thickness, number of positive lymph nodes, whether or not the primary lesion has ulcerated, immunologic markers, and cytokine profiles. Substantial progress has been made in deciding which patients benefit from interferon-α adjuvant therapy. Interferon-α is the only agent currently approved for the adjuvant treatment of this deadly disease, despite its side effect profile. More effective drugs with better tolerability are needed.

1First Department of Medicine, Athens University Medical School, Athens, Greece;

2Division of Medical Oncology, Baskent University School of Medicine, Adana, Turkey;

3Unit of Medical Oncology and Innovative Therapy, Istituto Nazionale Tumori Fondazione “G. Pascale,” Naples, Italy;

4Department of Biotherapy, Blokhin Cancer Center, Moscow, Russia;

5Department of Dermatology, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria;

6Department of Dermatology, Institute Gustave Roussy, Villejuif Cedex, France;

7Department of Oncology, Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, Israel;

8Department of Dermatologie, University of Kiel, Kiel, Germany; and

9Oncology Service, Hospital La Paz, Madrid, Spain.

Address for correspondence: University of Athens Medical School, Agiou Thoma 17, Athens 11527, Greece. E-mail:

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

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