BACKGROUND Sentinel-lymph-node biopsy is associated with increased melanoma-specific survival (i.e., survival until death from melanoma) among patients with node-positive intermediatethickness melanomas (1.2 to 3.5 mm). The value of completion lymph-node dissection for patients with sentinel-node metastases is not clear. METHODS In an international trial, we randomly assigned patients with sentinel-node metastases detected by means of standard pathological assessment or a multimarker molecular assay to immediate completion lymph-node dissection (dissection group) or nodal observation with ultrasonography (observation group). The primary end point was melanoma-specific survival. Secondary end points included disease-free survival and the cumulative rate of nonsentinel-node metastasis. RESULTS Immediate completion lymph-node dissection was not associated with increased melanomaspecific survival among 1934 patients with data that could be evaluated in an intention-Totreat analysis or among 1755 patients in the per-protocol analysis. In the per-protocol analysis, the mean (-SE) 3-year rate of melanoma-specific survival was similar in the dissection group and the observation group (86-1.3% and 86-1.2%, respectively; P = 0.42 by the logrank test) at a median follow-up of 43 months. The rate of disease-free survival was slightly higher in the dissection group than in the observation group (68-1.7% and 63-1.7%, respectively; P = 0.05 by the log-rank test) at 3 years, based on an increased rate of disease control in the regional nodes at 3 years (92-1.0% vs. 77-1.5%; P<0.001 by the log-rank test); these results must be interpreted with caution. Nonsentinel-node metastases, identified in 11.5% of the patients in the dissection group, were a strong, independent prognostic factor for recurrence (hazard ratio, 1.78; P = 0.005). Lymphedema was observed in 24.1% of the patients in the dissection group and in 6.3% of those in the observation group. CONCLUSIONS Immediate completion lymph-node dissection increased the rate of regional disease control and provided prognostic information but did not increase melanoma-specific survival among patients with melanoma and sentinel-node metastases.
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