INTRODUCTION: Cutaneous melanoma is rare in childhood and published studies have mainly been retrospective single-institution series or small case series. Given the absence of clinical protocols dedicated to pediatric melanoma, the treatment approach is generally extrapolated from the ones applied to adults.
METHODS: Coordinated by the European Cooperative Study Group for Pediatric Rare Tumors (EXPeRT), this study collected patients prospectively registered between 2002 and 2012 under national cooperative projects dedicated to rare pediatric tumors in Italy, Poland, Germany, and France. Additional cases were collected from dermatology registries in Germany and Israel.
RESULTS: A total of 219 patients aged 0-18 years (median 14.4) were included in the analysis. Sentinel lymph node biopsy was performed in 112 patients (76% of those with Breslow thickness > 0.75 mm) and was positive in 37.5%. Systemic therapy was used in 33 cases. In stage III cases, survival rates were similar for patients who received (23 cases) or not (21 cases) adjuvant therapy. For the whole series, 3-year overall and disease-free survival rates were 91.4% and 84.0%, respectively (median follow-up 41.8 months). Tumor site, tumor stage, and ulceration influenced survival rates. Patients treated by pediatric oncologists (n = 140) were more likely to have advanced disease than those treated by dermatologists (n = 79).
DISCUSSION: This study would suggest that the clinical history of melanoma in children and adolescents might resemble that of adult counterpart. Cooperative efforts are needed to make new drugs more readily available to pediatric patients to increase the outcome of patient with advanced disease.