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Melanoma Res. 2004 Apr;14(2):S1-7.

Feasibility of high-dose interferon-alpha2b adjuvant therapy for high-risk resected cutaneous melanoma.

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Division of Medical Oncology 1, Armando Businco Oncology Hospital, 09100 Cagliari, Italy.


The Kirkwood high-dose interferon-alpha2b adjuvant therapy in high-risk-of-recurrence melanoma patients (stage IIb-III) demonstrated a benefit in terms of disease-free survival (DFS) (three trials out of three) and overall survival (OS) (two trials out of three). These important and exclusive results match with a grade 3-4 toxicity in about 75% of patients. This problem is the most limiting of this treatment. The aim of the study was to check these results and the feasibility of this treatment using the original Kirkwood schedule of 52 weeks, with appropriate dose modification, until unacceptable toxicity or progression of disease. From 23rd February 1998 until 29th July 2002, 26 patients were treated (mean age 45 years; range 25-70) with high-dose interferon-alpha2b adjuvant therapy. All patients were evaluated for toxicity, whilst 24 out of 26 (92%) were evaluated for OS and DFS. All patients were in stage IIB/III of the new American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) classification. The sentinel node biopsy was performed in 19 out of 26 (73.1%) patients (clinical N0). At 31st December 2002, 20 out of 26 (77%) were still alive, whilst four (15%) had died and two (8%) were lost to follow-up. Of the patients still alive, 14 (70%) were disease free. The patients lost to follow-up refused to continue therapy for toxicity related treatment: one of them was disease free, whereas one was relapsed. There were 11 observed relapses (44%). The DFS ranged from 2 to 27 months. Among the patients, the maximal DFS is, at the time of writing, 59 months. The DFS mean is 29 months, the median is 19 months. The OS calculation will be performed at the end of 5 years observation. Now our attention is on therapy tolerability. In 18 patients out of 26 (69%) we noted at least one grade 3-4 toxicity, in accordance with literature data. The most common toxicities were haematological, hepatic, fever and asthenia. Overall, only two grade 4 events (one hepatic and one haematological) were reported. Grade 3 toxicity was hepatic in 23% of patients and haematological in 50%. Grade 2 toxicity was hepatic in 19%, haematological in 27% and fever in 50%. Grade 1 toxicities were hepatic, haematological and fever in 15, 15 and 35% of patients, respectively. Asthenia was severe in 54%, mild in 31% and not found in 15%. In 39, 4 and 15%, respectively, we have reported no hepatic, haematological or fever events. Less common toxicities were nausea, diarrhoea, headache, arthralgia, alopecia and one case of hypothyroidism. As a result of these reported toxicities, of 23 patients evaluable with regard to the protocol, 12 underwent dose reductions, six suspended treatment for disease progression, eight delayed treatment for toxicity, two interrupted treatment indefinitely for unacceptable toxicity or refused treatment, two refused to continue, two patients had no delay in treatment and three did not receive any delay or dose reduction. Of three patients still in therapy, just one has so far received a delay in treatment. Overall, only four patients (17%) interrupted therapy for toxicity related events, whereas 83% continued with the expected program: 52 weeks of therapy with appropriate dose modifications.

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