Briefer Biochemotherapy Yields Better Relapse-Free Survival but Greater Toxicity vs 1-Year High-Dose Interferon in High-Risk Melanoma

The gist: Compared to a standard treatment, an alternative, shorter treatment for stage III melanoma may lengthen the amount of time patients go without their cancer returning. However, it has more toxic side effects. And compared to the standard, it doesn’t lengthen life. The alternative treatment uses the drugs cisplatin, vinblastine, dacarbazine, interleukin-2, and interferon alfa-2b. In a clinical trial with volunteer patients, it was compared to longer (1-year), high-dose treatment with the drug interferon alfa-2b. The trial involved people aged 10 years and older with stage IIIA-N2a through IIIC-N3 melanoma.

“In a phase III trial (Southwest Oncology Group Intergroup S0008) reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Flaherty et al found that a shorter course of biochemotherapy consisting of cisplatin, vinblastine, dacarbazine, interleukin-2, and interferon alfa-2b produced better relapse-free survival, but not overall survival, and was associated with greater toxicity compared with a 1-year high-dose interferon alfa-2b regimen in patients with high-risk melanoma. The trial is a Cancer and Leukemia Group B, Children’s Oncology Group, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group, and Southwest Oncology Group Intergroup study…

“In the trial, 402 patients aged ≥ 10 years with stage IIIA-N2a through IIIC-N3 melanoma were randomly assigned between September 2000 and November 2007 to receive biochemotherapy plus granulocyte colony-stimulating factor given every 21 days for three cycles (n = 199) or high-dose interferon alfa-2b intravenously 5 days per week for 4 weeks and subcutaneously three times per week for 48 weeks (n = 203). The coprimary endpoints were relapse-free survival and overall survival.

“The high-dose interferon and biochemotherapy groups were generally balanced for age (median, 48 and 46 years), sex (69% and 71% male), race/ethnicity (96% and 95% white), number of involved nodes (1–3 or satellite/in-transit only in 76% in both), nodal involvement (micrometasteses only in 43% and 44%), and ulceration (41% in both)…

“The investigators concluded: ‘Biochemotherapy is a shorter, alternative adjuvant treatment for patients with high-risk melanoma that provides statistically significant improvement in [relapse-free survival] but no difference in [overall survival] and more toxicity compared with [high-dose interferon].’ ”