Interferon Therapy Delays Disease Recurrence and Prolongs Survival in Patients with Resected Melanoma

Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: May 21, 1996

Jean-Jacques Grob, MD, professor dermatology, University of Marseille, Hopital Sante-Marguerite (Marseille, France), presented a study of interferon alfa-2a as adjuvant therapy in patients with resected (surgically removed) early stage melanoma. Melanoma is a cancer which arises in the pigment cells of the skin, mucuous membranes, eyes and central nervous system.

The 31-center study was conducted by the French Cooperative Melanoma Group. From 1990 to 1994, 499 patients with resected melanoma (greater than 1.5 mm) were randomized to receive either interferon alfa-2a given subcutaneously three times a week for 18 months, or not treatment. The main endpoint f the trial was a 15% benefit in the disease-free interval (DFI) for treated patients.

The latest analysis was done at the point where all patients had completed treatment. The estimated relative risk in the 493 eligible patients reduction for the interferon treated patients versus untreated patients after three years was 28% for death, and 27.2% for relapse.

According to the researchers, the dose of interferon used in the study was well tolerated by most patients and only 10% reported severe side effects, all of which disappeared when treatment was stopped. Patients were able to receive their dose at home, either by self-administration or with help from a relative or nurse.

"This study shows that adjuvant therapy can delay recurrence of melanoma," Lynn Mara Schuchter, MD, assistant professor of medicine, Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA) said at a press briefing. "However, more studies are needed to confirm whether survival can also be extended bfor these patients by using interferon."