Management of symptomatic malignant melanoma of the gastrointestinal tract

Adam C. Berger, Joseph F. Buell, David Venzon, Alan R. Baker, Steven K. Libutti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Background: Melanoma metastatic to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is asymptomatic or presents with pain, bleeding, or obstruction. To determine whether surgery influences outcomes, we reviewed our experience with this patient population. Methods: Medical records of patients with metastatic melanoma to the GI tract were reviewed. Patients were divided into four groups, i.e., complete resection, partial debulking, unresectable, or unexplored. Analysis was performed using the Kaplan-Meier method. Results: Fifty patients with melanoma metastatic to the GI tract were identified (40 men and 10 women; mean age, 44 years). Presenting symptoms included pain (62%), bleeding (28%), and obstruction (18%). Diagnosis was confirmed using contrast studies (38%), endoscopy (20%), or computed tomography (30%). Thirty-six patients (61%) underwent a total of 39 operations. Seventeen patients underwent complete resection, whereas 14 underwent partial debulking. Five patients had unresectable lesions, and 14 patients did not undergo exploration because of medical contraindications. The operative mortality rate was 2.5% (1 of 39). The mean survival times for the unexplored and unresected groups were similar (4.1 months). Patients who underwent partial resection exhibited a longer mean survival time (8.9 months) than did patients in the unresected group (P < .001). The complete-resection group demonstrated a mean survival time of 23.5 months, which was significantly longer than that for patients who underwent less than complete resection (P < .0001). Conclusions: Metastatic melanoma to the GI tract can result in significant morbidity and death. Surgical resection can be performed safely. Patients for whom all sites of disease are completely resected experience significant improvements in survival times, compared with patients who undergo less than complete resection. For selected patients, surgical treatment of metastatic melanoma involving the GI tract is appropriate therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-160
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Surgical Oncology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Metastatic melanoma
  • Surgery
  • Survival

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Oncology


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