Adjuvant therapy for melanoma: Past, current, and future developments

Alessandro A.E. Testori, Silvia Chiellino, Alexander C.J. van Akkooi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This review describes the progress that the concept of adjuvant therapies has undergone in the last 50 years and focuses on the most recent development where an adjuvant approach has been scientifically evaluated in melanoma clinical trials. Over the past decade the development of immunotherapies and targeted therapies has drastically changed the treatment of stage IV melanoma patients. These successes led to trials studying the same therapies in the adjuvant setting, in high risk resected stage III and IV melanoma patients. Adjuvant immune checkpoint blockade with anti-CTLA-4 antibody ipilimumab was the first drug to show an improvement in recurrencefree and overall survival but this was accompanied by high severe toxicity rates. Therefore, these results were bypassed by adjuvant treatment with anti-PD-1 agents nivolumab and pembrolizumab and BRAF-directed target therapy, which showed even better recurrence-free survival rates with more favorable toxicity rates. The whole concept of adjuvant therapy may be integrated with the new neoadjuvant approaches that are under investigation through several clinical trials. However, there is still no data available on whether the effective adjuvant therapy that patients finally have at their disposal could be offered to them while waiting for recurrence, sparing at least 50% of them a potentially long-term toxic side effect but with the same rate of overall survival (OS). Adjuvant therapy for melanoma has radically changed over the past few years—anti-PD-1 or BRAF-directed therapy is the new standard of care.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1994
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


  • Adjuvant therapy
  • Anti PD-1
  • Immunotherapy
  • Melanoma
  • Target therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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