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Keywords:

  • melanoma;
  • sentinel lymph node biopsy;
  • radical lymph node dissection;
  • early lymph node dissection;
  • delayed lymph node dissection;
  • survival;
  • lymph node observation;
  • meta-analysis

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

It is debated whether patients with melanoma who undergo lymphadenectomy after a positive sentinel lymph node (SN) biopsy (SNB) have a better prognosis compared with patients who are treated for clinically evident disease.

METHODS:

The records of 190 patients with cutaneous melanoma who underwent radical lymph node dissection after a positive SNB (completion lymph node dissection [CLND]; n = 100) or who had clinically evident lymph node metastasis (therapeutic lymph node dissection [TLND]; n = 90) were analyzed. Moreover, the MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Cochrane databases were searched for studies that investigated the survival impact of SNB-guided CLND compared with TLND for clinically evident disease. Standard meta-analysis methods were used to calculate the overall treatment effect across eligible studies.

RESULTS:

In the authors' series, tumor characteristics did not differ significantly between patients who underwent CLND and those who underwent TLND. After a median follow-up of 52.6 months, the 5-year overall survival rate did not differ significantly between CLND patients and TLND patients (68.9% vs 50.4%, respectively; log-rank test; P = .17). In contrast, a meta-analysis of 6 studies (n = 2633) that addressed this issue (including the authors' own series) indicated that there was a significantly higher risk of death for patients who underwent TLND compared with that for patients who underwent CLND (hazard ratio, 1.60; 95% confidence interval, 1.28-2.00; P < .0001).

CONCLUSIONS:

Although no significant survival difference was observed in either series, the pooling of summary data from all the studies that dealt with this issue suggested that SNB-guided CLND is associated with a significantly better outcome compared with TLND for clinically evident lymph node disease. Cancer 2010. © 2010 American Cancer Society.