Giving Immunotherapy before Surgery in Melanoma

VIDEO | 01:34

Dr. Chapman discusses research presented at the 2019 meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The study showed that giving immunotherapy before surgery reduced the risk of relapse for patients with stage IIIB or IIIC melanoma. The results are preliminary but could represent a new strategy to improve survival and eliminate the need to treat some patients after surgery. (June 2019)

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This is Dr. Paul Chapman from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Here's something you might want to know about giving immunotherapy prior to surgery. When melanoma is stage 3B or 3C, it means the disease has spread to lymph nodes, but nowhere else.

Even after successful surgery, about 40% of patients will suffer a relapse within two years. Giving therapy after surgery can reduce the risk of relapse a little bit, but still, about half of patients will relapse.

At the recent meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in June 2019, remarkable data were presented in which patients were given immunotherapy before surgery. Compiling data from four different small studies, there were 133 patients with stage 3B or 3C melanoma who received immunotherapy for three to 12 weeks before surgery.

When they went to surgery, more than 40% had no melanoma left alive, and those patients had been relapse-free for two years. We would have expected at least 40% of these patients to have lapsed by then.

These are preliminary results, and the average patient actually has only been followed for about a year. But giving immunotherapy prior to surgery for stage 3 melanoma is a new strategy that could improve survival and make it unnecessary to give treatment after surgery. More to come.