Evolving impact of long-term survival results on metastatic melanoma treatment

Olivier Michielin, Michael B Atkins, Henry B Koon, Reinhard Dummer, Paolo Antonio Ascierto

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Melanoma treatment has been revolutionized over the past decade. Long-term results with immuno-oncology (I-O) agents and targeted therapies are providing evidence of durable survival for a substantial number of patients. These results have prompted consideration of how best to define long-term benefit and cure. Now more than ever, oncologists should be aware of the long-term outcomes demonstrated with these newer agents and their relevance to treatment decision-making. As the first tumor type for which I-O agents were approved, melanoma has served as a model for other diseases. Accordingly, discussions regarding the value and impact of long-term survival data in patients with melanoma may be relevant in the future to other tumor types. Current findings indicate that, depending on the treatment, over 50% of patients with melanoma may gain durable survival benefit. The best survival outcomes are generally observed in patients with favorable prognostic factors, particularly normal baseline lactate dehydrogenase and/or a low volume of disease. Survival curves from melanoma clinical studies show a plateau at 3 to 4 years, suggesting that patients who are alive at the 3-year landmark (especially in cases in which treatment had been stopped) will likely experience prolonged cancer remission. Quality-of-life and mixture-cure modeling data, as well as metrics such as treatment-free survival, are helping to define the value of this long-term survival. In this review, we describe the current treatment landscape for melanoma and discuss the long-term survival data with immunotherapies and targeted therapies, discussing how to best evaluate the value of long-term survival. We propose that some patients might be considered functionally cured if they have responded to treatment and remained treatment-free for at least 2 years without disease progression. Finally, we consider that, while there have been major advances in the treatment of melanoma in the past decade, there remains a need to improve outcomes for the patients with melanoma who do not experience durable survival.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


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