Is the non-sentinel lymph node compartment the next site for melanoma progression from the sentinel lymph node compartment in the regional nodal basin?

Abstract

              <p>Melanoma patients with additional positive lymph nodes in the completion lymph node dissection (CLND) following a positive sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy would have a poorer prognosis than patients with no additional positive lymph nodes. We hypothesize that the progression of disease from the SLN to the non-SLN compartment is orderly and is associated with the worsening of the disease status. Thus, the SLN and non-SLN compartments are biologically different in that cancer cells, in general, arrive in the SLN compartment before spreading to the non-SLN compartment. To validate this concept, we used a large cohort of melanoma patients from our prospective SLN database in an academic tertiary medical center. Adult cutaneous melanoma patients (n = 291) undergoing CLND after a positive SLN biopsy from 1994 to 2009 were analyzed. Comparison of 5-year disease-free survival and 5-year overall survival between positive (n = 66) and negative (n = 225) CLND groups was made. The 5-year disease-free survival rates were 55% (95% CI 49–62%) for patients with no additional LN on CLND versus 14% (95% CI 8–26%) in patients with positive LN on CLND (p &lt; 0.0001, log-rank test). The median disease-free survival time was 7.4 years with negative CLND (95% CI 4.4–15+ years) and 1.2 years with positive CLND (95% CI 1.0–1.8 years). The 5-year overall survival rates were 67% (95% CI 61–74%) for negative CLND versus 38% (95% CI 28–52%) for positive CLND (p &lt; 0.0001, log-rank test). The median overall survival time was 12.1 years for negative CLND (95% CI 9.3–15+ years) and 2.5 years for positive CLND (95% CI 2.2–5.7 years). This study shows that CLND status is a significant prognostic factor for patients with positive SLNs undergoing CLND. Also, it suggests an orderly progression of metastasis from the SLN to the non-SLN compartment. Thus, the SLN in the regional nodal basin draining the primary melanoma may serve as an important gateway for metastasis to the non-SLN compartment and beyond to the systemic sites.</p><br /><br />

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