The objective of this study was to support our hypothesis that surgical resection of abdominal metastases of melanoma, regardless of symptomatology, could provide prolonged palliation and improved survival. We performed a retrospective chart review at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. A series of 251 melanoma patients (stages I, II, or III at registration) who developed intraabdominal metastases during follow-up were studied. Altogether, 96 patients underwent 119 laparotomies; 51 underwent endoscopic or percutaneous procedures; and 116 patients were treated medically. Surgery was associated with a median survival of 11 months, significantly longer than that with other treatment (p < 0.001). Tumor was extirpated during 37% of the first laparotomies, and in an additional 33% very good palliation was achieved with incomplete resection. Tumor extirpation was associated with 10-month symptom-free survival (SFS), significantly longer than that with any other approach (p < 0.0001). In the nonsurgically treated patients, good palliation was achieved in 8% to 17% of patients with no complete response. The median SFS after surgery was 5 months, but 23% of patients were symptom-free more than 12 months; 87 patients with minimal symptoms; and 72 severely symptomatic patients underwent surgery. Complete resection was feasible in 42% and 34%, respectively. Surgery was associated with 12 months median survival in both groups. There was a significant survival benefit from surgery in patients with gastrointestinal (GI) tract metastases in contrast to those who had non-GI metastases. For the 96 surgically treated patients, a time interval of more than 4 years between diagnosis of the primary lesion and the abdominal recurrence predicted decreased risk of death (p = 0.038). The 30-day postoperative complication and mortality rates were 19.0% and 3.3%, respectively. Complete surgical resection of melanoma metastases in the abdomen is associated with median and symptom-free survival benefits. Symptomatic and asymptomatic patients benefit equally, especially if abdominal metastases appear more than 4 years after the initial diagnosis and do not involve non-GI viscera. Less than complete resection can provide durable palliation.
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