A new study shows that immunotherapy reduces the risk of relapse by 43% in patients with stage 3 melanoma who are at high risk of recurrence after surgery.
Stage 3 melanoma with a high risk of relapse is characterized by metastases greater than one millimeter in one or more lymph nodes. The greater the lymph node involvement and the size of the metastases, the greater the risk of relapse. However, there is currently no standard treatment to prevent relapse.
However, a study presented by Professor Alexander Eggermont, General Manager of Gustave Roussy, at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) conference shows that pembrolizulab, a treatment used in immunotherapy, reduces the risk of relapse by 43% in patients with this type of melanoma.
For this study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, patients operated for melanoma invading the lymph nodes were randomly divided into two groups. One received an injection of pembrolizumab at the fixed dose of 200 mg every three weeks for one year, while the other received a placebo.
After 18 months of follow-up, the relapse-free survival rate was 71.4% for patients treated with pembrolizumab versus 53.2% for those who received the placebo.
“These promising results should lead the pharmaceutical company to file a marketing authorization application for this indication, and now more time is needed to be able to estimate the benefit on overall survival,” said Eggermont.
For the continuation of this study, relapsed patients in the placebo group will have access to pembrolizumab. “This will enable us to determine whether it is more beneficial to initiate treatment immediately post-surgery or to treat patients only at the time of relapse,” the doctor adds.