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J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 1995 Jul;110(1):119-28; discussion 129.

Resection and adjuvant immunotherapy for melanoma metastatic to the lung and thorax.

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John Wayne Cancer Institute at Saint John's Hospital and Health Center, Santa Monica, Calif. 90404, USA.


Although melanoma that metastasizes to distant sites is generally associated with a median survival of only 6 to 8 months, certain metastatic sites including the lung may carry a better prognosis than others. Surgical therapy for pulmonary metastases remains controversial because of the variable survival rates reported for previous small series. To determine the prognosis and optimal management of patients with melanoma with pulmonary metastases, we reviewed our 22-year melanoma database of over 6100 patients. Of 984 patients with metastatic melanoma involving the lung or thorax, 106 underwent resection by posterior lateral thoracotomy or median sternotomy. There were no operative deaths, and the median follow-up period for surgical patients was 55 months. The remaining 878 patients were treated without operation with immunotherapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination. In both treatment groups the male/female ratio was approximately 2:1. The primary lesion's Clark level of invasion and Breslow thickness and the patient's age at diagnosis of metastatic disease were not significantly different between the two groups. The 1-year, 3-year, and 5-year survival rates for surgical patients were 77%, 37%, and 27%, respectively, compared with 32%, 7%, and 3% for nonsurgical patients; these differences were highly significant (p = 0.0001). The highest 5-year survival rate (39%) occurred in those patients with a single metastatic lesion. Sixty-three percent of the surgical patients received some form of immunotherapy, compared with 34% of the nonsurgical patients. Multivariate analysis showed that resection and immunotherapy with a melanoma cell vaccine were both independent predictors of survival (p < 0.0001). These results indicate that the prognosis associated with metastatic melanoma may be less dismal than previously thought when distant metastases involve thoracic sites. We believe that surgical resection is the treatment of choice for patients with melanoma with pulmonary metastases; when combined with immunotherapy, this regimen offers the best chance for long-term survival.

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