Open Access Research article

Tolerability of intensified intravenous interferon alfa-2b versus the ECOG 1684 schedule as adjuvant therapy for stage III melanoma: a randomized phase III Italian Melanoma Inter-group trial (IMI – Mel.A.) [ISRCTN75125874]

Vanna Chiarion-Sileni1*, Paola Del Bianco2, Antonella Romanini3, Michele Guida4, Adriano Paccagnella5, Maurizio Dalla Palma6, Emanuele Naglieri4, Ruggero Ridolfi7, Barbara Silvestri8, Maria Michiara9 and Gian Luca De Salvo2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medical Oncology, University Hospital, Padua, Italy

2 Clinical Trials and Biostatistics Unit, Istituto Oncologico Veneto, Padua, Italy

3 Medical Oncology Unit, S. Chiara Hospital, Pisa, Italy

4 Medical Oncology Unit, Ospedale Oncologico, Bari, Italy

5 Medical Oncology Unit, SS Giovanni e Paolo Hospital, Venezia, Italy

6 Medical Oncology Unit, S. Bortolo Hospital, Vicenza, Italy

7 Oncology Dept – Pierantoni Hospital- Forlì, Italy

8 Medical Oncology Unit, General Hospital, Noale (Ve), Italy

9 Medical Oncology Unit, General Hospital, Parma, Italy

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BMC Cancer 2006, 6:44  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-6-44

Published: 27 February 2006



High-dose interferon alfa-2b (IFNalfa-2b), according to the ECOG 1684 schedule, is the only approved adjuvant treatment for stage III melanoma patients by the FDA and EMEA. However, the risk/benefit profile has been questioned limiting its world-wide use. In the late nineties, the Italian Melanoma Inter-group started a spontaneous randomized clinical trial (RCT) to verify if a more intense, but shorter than the ECOG 1684 regimen, could improve survival without increasing the toxicity profile. The safety analysis in the first 169 patients who completed the treatment is here described.


Stage III melanoma patients were randomized to receive IFNalfa-2b 20 MU/m2/d intravenously (IV) 5 days/week × 4 weeks, repeated for three times on weeks 9 to 12, 17 to 20, 25 to 28 (Dose-Dense/Dose-Intense, DD/DI, arm), or IFNalfa-2b 20 MU/m2/d IV 5 days/week × 4 weeks followed by 10 MU/m2 subcutaneously (SC) three times per week × 48 weeks (High Dose Interferon, HDI, arm). Toxicity was recorded and graded, according to the WHO criteria, as the worst grade that occurred during each cycle.


The most common toxicities in both arms were flu-like and gastrointestinal symptoms, leukopenia, liver and neuro-psichiatric morbidities; with regard to severe toxicity, only leukopenia was statistically more frequent in DD/DI arm than in HDI arm (24% vs 9%) (p = 0.0074), yet, this did not cause an increase in the infection risk. Discontinuation of treatment, due to toxicity, was observed in 13 and 17% of the patients in the DD/DI and HDI arm, respectively. The median actual dose intensity delivered in the DD/DI arm (36.4 MU/m2/week) was statistically higher than that delivered in the HDI arm (30.7 MU/m2/week) (p = 0.003).


Four cycles of intravenous high-dose IFNalfa-2b can be safely delivered with an increase in the median dose intensity. Efficacy results from this trial are eagerly awaited.