Surgical outcomes of lymph node dissections for stage III melanoma after neoadjuvant systemic therapy are not inferior to upfront surgery.

Zijlker LP, van der Burg SJC, Blank CU, Zuur CL, Klop WMC, Wouters MWMJ, van Houdt WJ, van Akkooi ACJ. Eur J Cancer. 2023 Mar 7;185:131-138. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2023.03.003. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 36989829.


Background: Neoadjuvant systemic therapy has shown promising results in the treatment of high-risk stage III melanoma; however, the effects on surgery are currently unknown. This study aims to compare the surgical outcomes, in terms of postoperative complications, postoperative morbidity, duration of surgery and textbook outcomes, of patients with high-risk stage III melanoma who received neoadjuvant systemic therapy followed by lymph node dissection with patients who received an upfront lymph node dissection.

Methods: In this retrospective cohort study, patients with high-risk stage III melanoma treated with neoadjuvant anti-PD1 and anti-CTLA4 in the OpACIN (NCT02437279) and OpACIN-neo (NCT02977052) trial between October 2014 and August 2018 were included and compared to patients who received upfront surgery in the same time period.

Results: A total of 120 patients were included in this study, of whom 44 received neoadjuvant systemic therapy and 76 underwent upfront surgery. There was no significant difference in the overall rate of postoperative complications between the neoadjuvant group and the upfront surgery group (31.8% versus 36.8%, p = 0.578) and neither in rate of postoperative morbidity (seroma 56.8% versus 57.9%, p = 0.908) (lymphedema 22.7% versus 13.2%, p = 0.175). There was a non-significant difference towards a slightly longer duration of surgery after neoadjuvant immunotherapy (105 versus 90 min, p = 0.077). There were no differences in textbook outcomes (50% versus 49%, p = 0.889).

Conclusion: This study shows that the surgical outcomes for patients who underwent a lymph node dissection after neoadjuvant systemic immunotherapy or underwent upfront lymph node dissection for high-risk stage III melanoma are comparable.