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Dermatol Surg. 2012 Jun;38(6):937-46. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-4725.2012.02362.x. Epub 2012 Feb 16.

Melanoma in situ treated successfully using imiquimod after nonclearance with surgery: review of the literature.

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Department of Dermatology, University of Colorado, Aurora, Colorado 80045, USA.



The standard of care for melanoma in situ (MIS) is surgical removal by surgical excision with a 5-mm margin or Mohs micrographic surgery, but as more and more MIS is diagnosed in the head and neck region, surgeries may not be an option for patients when the lesions are large or less well defined. In addition, when negative margins cannot be achieved without grossly disfiguring the patient or when patients have medical comorbidities that preclude a surgical option, other treatment modalities may be considered. Recently, topical treatment with an immunomodulator, imiquimod, has been proposed as an alternative treatment for MIS.


We report a case of MIS successfully treated with topical imiquimod cream. In addition, because there has not been any comprehensive review of the use of topical imiquimod on melanoma and MIS, we conducted an extensive literature search and reviewed the topic in detail.


Using the keywords "imiquimod," "melanoma," "melanoma-in-situ," and "lentigo maligna," we searched the literature using PubMed in an attempt to find all relevant articles on the use of imiquimod on MIS or melanoma.


There were 46 reports involving 264 patients on the use of imiquimod on MIS or lentigo maligna. Twenty-three reports were published on the use of imiquimod on metastatic melanoma involving 55 patients, and two articles were on melanoma, with two patients in total. In addition, there were two articles on the use of imiquimod on dysplastic or atypical nevi with a total of 13 subjects.


Imiquimod appears to be beneficial in the treatment of MIS and melanoma metastases when surgical options are not feasible. Imiquimod should not be used for removal of dysplastic or atypical nevi. The treatment regimens varied from study to study, and there are no randomized controlled trials in the literature. More studies are needed to develop a reliable and reproducible treatment regimen, to fully elucidate the role of imiquimod in the treatment of MIS and melanoma, and to determine the prognostic predictors for favorable responses to imiquimod.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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