Pathological response and survival with neoadjuvant therapy in melanoma: a pooled analysis from the International Neoadjuvant Melanoma Consortium (INMC)

Alexander M. Menzies, Rodabe N. Amaria, Elisa A. Rozeman, Alexander C. Huang, Michael T. Tetzlaff, Bart A. van de Wiel, Serigne Lo, Ahmad A. Tarhini, Elizabeth M. Burton, Thomas E. Pennington, Robyn P. M. Saw, Xiaowei Xu, Giorgos C. Karakousis, Paolo A. Ascierto, Andrew J. Spillane, Alexander C. J. van Akkooi, Michael A. Davies, Tara C. Mitchell, Hussein A. Tawbi, Richard A. Scolyer, Jennifer A. Wargo, Christian U. Blank & Georgina V. Long.  Nat Med (2021).


The association among pathological response, recurrence-free survival (RFS) and overall survival (OS) with neoadjuvant therapy in melanoma remains unclear. In this study, we pooled data from six clinical trials of anti-PD-1-based immunotherapy or BRAF/MEK targeted therapy. In total, 192 patients were included; 141 received immunotherapy (104, combination of ipilimumab and nivolumab; 37, anti-PD-1 monotherapy), and 51 received targeted therapy. A pathological complete response (pCR) occurred in 40% of patients: 47% with targeted therapy and 33% with immunotherapy (43% combination and 20% monotherapy). pCR correlated with improved RFS (pCR 2-year 89% versus no pCR 50%, P < 0.001) and OS (pCR 2-year OS 95% versus no pCR 83%, P = 0.027). In patients with pCR, near pCR or partial pathological response with immunotherapy, very few relapses were seen (2-year RFS 96%), and, at this writing, no patient has died from melanoma, whereas, even with pCR from targeted therapy, the 2-year RFS was only 79%, and OS was only 91%. Pathological response should be an early surrogate endpoint for clinical trials and a new benchmark for development and approval in melanoma.