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J Transl Med. 2012 Jun 22;10:131. doi: 10.1186/1479-5876-10-131.

Use of neoadjuvant electrochemotherapy to treat a large metastatic lesion of the cheek in a patient with melanoma.

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Department of Surgery, National Cancer Institute, Via Mariano Semmola, Naples, Italy.



Approximately 200,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed worldwide each year. Skin metastases are a frequent event, occurring in 18.2% of cases. This can be distressing for the patient, as the number and size of cutaneous lesions increases, often worsened by ulceration, bleeding and pain. Electrochemotherapy (ECT) is a local modality for the treatment of cutaneous or subcutaneous tumors that allows delivery of low- and non-permeant drugs into cells. ECT has been used in palliative management of metastatic melanoma to improve patients' quality of life. This is, to our knowledge, the first application of ECT as neoadjuvant treatment of metastatic subcutaneous melanoma.


A 44-year-old Caucasian woman underwent extensive surgical resection of a melanoma, with a Breslow thickness of 1.5 mm, located on the right side of her scalp. No further treatment was given and the woman remained well until she came to our attention with a large nodule in her right cheek. Whole-body fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography/computed tomography (FDG PET/CT) was performed for staging and treatment monitoring. Baseline FDG PET/CT showed the lesion in the cheek to have a maximal standardized uptake value (SUVmax) of 19.5 with no evidence of further disease spread. Fine needle aspiration cytology confirmed the presence of metastatic melanoma. The patient underwent two sessions of ECT with intravenous injections of bleomycin using a CliniporatorTM as neoadjuvant treatment permitting conservative surgery three months later.Follow-up PET/CT three months after the first ECT treatment showed a marked decrease in SUVmax to 5. Further monitoring was performed through monthly PET/CT studies. Multiple cytology examinations showed necrotic tissue. Conservative surgery was carried out three months after the second ECT. Reconstruction was easily achieved through a rotation flap. Pathological examination of the specimen showed necrotic tissue without residual melanoma. One year after the last ECT treatment, the patient was disease-free as determined by contrast-enhanced CT and PET/-CT scans with a good functional and aesthetic result.


ECT represents a safe and effective therapeutic approach that is associated with clear benefits in terms of quality of life (minimal discomfort, mild post-treatment pain and short duration of hospital stay) and may, in the neoadjuvant setting as reported here, offer the option of more conservative surgery and an improved cosmetic effect with complete local tumor control.

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