[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background
Although widely used for the management of patients with cutaneous melanoma, the sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy (SNB) procedure raises several issues. This study was designed to investigate: the predictive factors of SLN status, the false-negative (FN) rate, and patients’ prognosis after SNB.
Patients and Methods
This is an observational, prospective study conducted on a large series of consecutive patients (n = 1,313) enrolled by 23 Italian centers from 2000 through 2002. A commonly shared protocol was adopted for the SNB surgical procedure and the SLN pathological examination.
The SLN positive and false-negative (FN) rates were 16.9% and 14.4%, respectively (median follow-up, 4.5 years). At multivariable logistic regression analysis, the frequency of positive SLN increased with increasing Breslow thickness (p < 0.0001) and decreased in patients with melanoma regression (p = 0.024). At the multivariable Cox regression analysis, SLN status was the most important prognostic factor (hazards ratio (HR) = 3.08) for overall survival; the other statistically significant factors were sex, age, Breslow thickness, and Clark’s level. Considering SLN and NSLN status, including FN cases, we identified four groups of patients with different prognoses. The 5-year overall survival of patients with positive SLNs was 71.3% in those with negative nonsentinel lymph nodes (NSLNs) and 50.4% if NSLNs were positive.
Regression in the primary melanoma seems to be a protective factor from metastasis in the SLN. When correctly calculated, the SNB FN rate is 15–20%. Furthermore, the SNB is important to more precisely assess the prognosis of patients with melanoma.