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Validation of the American Joint Committee on Cancer Eighth Edition Staging of Patients With Metastatic Cutaneous Melanoma Treated With Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors.

Waninger JJ, Ma VT, Journey S, Skvarce J, Chopra Z, Tezel A, Bryant AK, Mayo C, Sun Y, Sankar K, Ramnath N, Lao C, Sussman JB, Fecher L, Alva A, Green MD. Validation of the American Joint Committee on Cancer Eighth Edition Staging of Patients With Metastatic Cutaneous Melanoma Treated With Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors. JAMA Network Open. 2021 Mar 1; 4(3):e210980.

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Importance: Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have transformed the survival of patients with metastatic melanoma. Patient prognosis is reflected by the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) staging system; however, it is unknown whether the metastatic (M) stage categories for cutaneous melanoma remain informative of prognosis in patients who have received ICIs. Objectives: To evaluate the outcomes of patients with metastatic cutaneous melanoma based on the M stage category from the AJCC eighth edition and to determine whether these designations continue to inform the prognosis of patients who have received ICIs. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cohort study included patients with metastatic cutaneous melanoma who were treated between August 2006 and August 2019 at the University of Michigan. The estimated median follow-up time was 35.5 months. Patient data were collected via the electronic medical record system. Critical findings were externally validated in a multicenter nationwide cohort of patients treated within the Veterans Affairs health care system. Data analysis was conducted from February 2020 to January 2021. Exposures: All patients were treated with dual-agent concurrent ipilimumab and nivolumab followed by maintenance nivolumab or single-agent ipilimumab, nivolumab, or pembrolizumab therapy. Patients were staged using the AJCC eighth edition. Main Outcomes and Measures: Univariable and multivariable analyses were used to assess the prognostic value of predefined clinicopathologic baseline factors on survival. Results: In a discovery cohort of 357 patients (mean [SD] age, 62.6 [14.2] years; 254 [71.1%] men) with metastatic cutaneous melanoma treated with ICIs, the M category in the AJCC eighth edition showed limited prognostic stratification by both univariable and multivariable analyses. The presence of liver metastases and elevated levels of serum lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) offered superior prognostic separation compared with the M category (liver metastases: hazard ratio, 2.22; 95% CI, 1.48-3.33; P < .001; elevated serum LDH: hazard ratio, 1.73; 95% CI, 1.16-2.58; P = .007). An updated staging system based on these factors was externally validated in a cohort of 652 patients (mean [SD] age, 67.9 [11.6] years; 630 [96.6%] men), with patients without liver metastases or elevated LDH levels having the longest survival (median overall survival, 30.7 months). Conclusions and Relevance: This study found that the AJCC eighth edition M category was poorly reflective of prognosis in patients receiving ICIs. Future staging systems could consider emphasizing the presence of liver metastases and elevated LDH levels. Additional studies are needed to confirm the importance of these and other prognostic biomarkers.

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