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Management of melanomas of the gynaecological tract

Nobbenhuis, Marielle A.E.a; Lalondrelle, Susana,b; Larkin, Jamesb; Banerjee, Susanaa

doi: 10.1097/CCO.0000000000000104
GYNECOLOGIC CANCER: Edited by Martin Gore

Purpose of review Primary melanomas originating from the gynaecological tract are rare and aggressive cancers. The 5-year survival is around 10%. The majority of tumours differ from cutaneous melanomas, which arise from the skin, by developing from melanocytes located in mucosal epithelium. The clinical behaviour, prognosis and the biology of mucosal melanomas are distinct from cutaneous melanomas. In this article, we summarize the current management of melanomas of the gynaecological tract (vulva, vagina, ovary and cervix) and discuss the progress in developing new treatments.

Recent findings The management of mucosal melanomas has not changed substantially over the last decade and the prognosis remains poor. Surgery remains the primary treatment of choice in all localized melanomas of the genital tract. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are options but have limited success for the majority of women. Activation of c-KIT occurs in vulvar melanomas. Clinical trials of targeted agents are underway.

Summary As a result of the rarity of gynaecological tract melanomas, challenges associated with their anatomical locations and resistance to conventional radiotherapy and chemotherapy, this group of conditions remain difficult to treat and continue to have a poor prognosis. A greater understanding of the molecular profile of these cancers may provide promising targeted approaches.

aGynaecological Unit

bMelanoma Unit, The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, London, United Kingdom

Correspondence to Dr Susana Banerjee, MBBS, MA, MRCP, PhD, The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, Fulham Rd, London, SW3 6JJ, UK. Tel: +44 0207 8118 579; e-mail:

© 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.