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Background: Patients with high-risk stage II/III resected melanoma commonly develop distant metastases. At present, we cannot differentiate between patients who will recur or those who are cured by surgery. We investigated if circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) can predict relapse and survival in patients with resected melanoma. Patients and methods: We carried out droplet digital polymerase chain reaction to detect BRAF and NRAS mutations in plasma taken after surgery from 161 stage II/III high-risk melanoma patients enrolled in the AVAST-M adjuvant trial. Results: Mutant BRAF or NRAS ctDNA was detected (≥1 copy of mutant ctDNA) in 15/132 (11%) BRAF mutant patient samples and 4/29 (14%) NRAS mutant patient samples. Patients with detectable ctDNA had a decreased disease-free interval [DFI; hazard ratio (HR) 3.12; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.79-5.47; P < 0.0001] and distant metastasis-free interval (DMFI; HR 3.22; 95% CI 1.80-5.79; P < 0.0001) versus those with undetectable ctDNA. Detectable ctDNA remained a significant predictor after adjustment for performance status and disease stage (DFI: HR 3.26, 95% CI 1.83-5.83, P < 0.0001; DMFI: HR 3.45, 95% CI 1.88-6.34, P < 0.0001). Five-year overall survival rate for patients with detectable ctDNA was 33% (95% CI 14%-55%) versus 65% (95% CI 56%-72%) for those with undetectable ctDNA. Overall survival was significantly worse for patients with detectable ctDNA (HR 2.63; 95% CI 1.40-4.96); P = 0.003) and remained significant after adjustment for performance status (HR 2.50, 95% CI 1.32-4.74, P = 0.005). Conclusion: ctDNA predicts for relapse and survival in high-risk resected melanoma and could aid selection of patients for adjuvant therapy. Clinical trial number: ISRCTN 81261306.

Original publication




Journal article


Ann Oncol

Publication Date





490 - 496