Surveillance strategies in the follow-up of melanoma patients: too much or not enough?
BACKGROUND: After appropriate initial therapy for patients with stage II-III melanoma, there is no consensus regarding surveillance. Thus, follow-up is highly variable among institutions and individual providers. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends routine clinical examination and consideration of imaging for stage IIB-IIIC every 3-12 mo with no distinction between stages. Detection of recurrence is important as novel systemic therapies and surgical resection of recurrence may provide survival benefits. METHODS: We retrospectively reviewed 369 patients with stage II and III melanoma treated at Ohio State University from 2009-2015, who underwent surgery as primary therapy. Two hundred forty-seven patients who were followed for a minimum of 6 mo after surgical resection to achieve no evidence of disease status (NED) were included in this analysis. One hundred twenty-two were lost to follow-up after surgery and were excluded. RESULTS: The rate of recurrence for stage IIA/IIB patients was 11% (14/125). Eleven of the 14 (79%) recurrences were detected by clinical symptoms or physical examination. Thirty-nine percent (49/125) of stage IIA or IIB patients were followed by clinical examination only, whereas 61% (76/125) were followed with at least two serial chest x-rays. The median time to first chest x-ray after NED status was 4.7 mo (n = 76), median time to second chest x-ray after NED status was 12.7 mo (n = 76), and 66% (50/76) continued to have additional serial chest x-rays. At median follow-up of 35 mo for the 125 patients with stage IIA/IIB, there was no difference in survival between those followed clinically (95% [95% CI: 0.88-0.99]) versus those followed with at least two serial x-rays (96% [95% CI: 0.89-0.98]). For stage IIC/IIIA-C patients, recurrence was detected in 23% (28/122) at median follow-up 31.2 mo. Fifty percent of recurrences were detected by imaging in asymptomatic patients, whereas 50% (14/28) had recurrence detected on imaging associated clinical findings. Eighty-seven percent (106/122) of stage IIC/IIIA-C patients were followed with at least two serial whole body positron emission tomography/computed tomography (CT) scans or whole body CT scans plus brain magnetic resonance imaging; median time between NED status and second scan was 10.3 mo. Of stage IIC/IIIA-C patients with recurrence, 57% (16/28) went on to surgical resection of the recurrence, whereas 11 (39%) patients received B-RAF inhibitor therapy, immune blockade therapy, or combination therapy. CONCLUSIONS: For stage IIA and IIB melanoma, surveillance chest x-rays did not improve survival compared to physical examination alone. However, for stage IIC and IIIA-C melanoma, where the recurrence rates are higher, routine whole body imaging detected 50% of recurrences leading to additional surgery and/or treatment with novel systemic therapies for the majority of patients. Detection of melanoma recurrence is important and specific substage should be used to stratify risk and define appropriate follow-up.
Kurtz, J; Beasley, GM; Agnese, D; Kendra, K; Olencki, TE; Terando, A; Howard, JH
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