Hypothesis: The clinical treatment of patients with stage IV melanoma according to criteria of the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) is controversial because the 5-year survival rate is approximately 5%. Specific clinicopathologic factors are predictive of survival following curative surgery. Design: Cohort analysis of 1574 successive patients undergoing surgical resection of metastatic melanoma for a 29-year period. Patients received follow-up on a routine basis with serial examinations and radiographic studies. The median follow-up time was 19 months (range, 1-382 months). Setting: Tertiary cancer center. Patients. Surgical resection was performed in 1574 patients. The decision to perform surgery was individualized for each patient. Interventions The technique of surgical resection was based on the site of metastasis. Main Outcome Measure: Computer-assisted database with statistical analyses using log-rank tests and Cox regression models. Results: Of the 4426 patients with AJCC stage IV melanoma, 1574 (35%) underwent surgical resection; 970 (62%) were men, with a median age of 50 years. Of the primary melanomas, 46% arose on the trunk, and 56% were Clark level IV or V with a median thickness of 2.2 mm. We found 697 patients (44%) to have AJCC stage III melanoma (lymph node) prior to the development of stage IV metastases. The most common site for resection was the lung (42%), followed by the skin or lymph node (19%) and the alimentary tract (16%). Of our patients, 877 (56%) had melanoma at a single site. The 5-year survival rate was significantly (P<.001) better for patients with a solitary melanoma (mean ± SD, 29% ± 2%) than those with 4 or more metastases (n = 147; mean ± SD, 11% ± 3%). Skin and lymph node metastases had the most favorable survival rate (median, 35.1 months). Multivariate analyses identified an earlier primary tumor stage (I vs II) (P<.001), an absence of intervening stage III metastases (P = .02), solitary metastasis (P<.001), and a long (>36 months) disease-free interval from AJCC stage I or II to stage IV (P = .005) as predictive of survival. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate the benefit of surgical resection for advanced-stage melanoma. Patients with limited sites and numbers of metastases should be considered for curative resection regardless of the location of the disease.
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