Malignant melanotic nerve sheath tumors are rare tumors characterized by neoplastic melanin-producing Schwann cells. In this study, the authors report their institution’s experience in treating spinal and peripheral malignant melanotic nerve sheath tumors and compare their results with the literature.
Data were collected from 8 patients who underwent surgical treatment for malignant melanotic nerve sheath tumors between 1996 and 2023 at Mayo Clinic and 63 patients from the literature. Time-to-event analyses were performed for the combined group of 71 cases to evaluate the risk of recurrence, metastasis, and death based on tumor location and type of treatment received. Unpaired 2-sample t-tests and Fisher’s exact tests were used to determine statistical significance between groups.
Between 1996 and 2023, 8 patients with malignant melanotic nerve sheath tumors underwent surgery at the authors’ institution, while 63 patients were identified in the literature. The authors’ patients and those in the literature had the same mean age at diagnosis (43 years). At the authors’ institution, 5 patients (63%) experienced metastasis, 6 patients (75%) experienced long-term recurrence, and 5 patients (62.5%) died. In the literature, most patients (60.3%) were males, with a peak incidence between the 4th and 5th decades of life. Nineteen patients (31.1%) were diagnosed with Carney complex. Nerve root tumors accounted for most presentations (n = 39, 61.9%). Moreover, 24 patients (38.1%) had intradural lesions, with 54.2% (n = 13) being intramedullary and 45.8% (n = 11) extramedullary. Most patients underwent gross-total resection (GTR) (n = 41, 66.1%), followed by subtotal resection (STR) (n = 12, 19.4%), STR with radiation therapy (9.7%), and GTR with radiation therapy (4.8%). Sixteen patients (27.6%) experienced metastasis, 23 (39.7%) experienced recurrence, and 13 (22%) died. Kaplan-Meier analyses showed no significant differences among treatment approaches in terms of recurrence-free, metastasis-free, and overall survival (p > 0.05). Similar results were obtained when looking at the differences with respect to intradural versus nerve root location of the tumor (p > 0.05).
Malignant melanotic nerve sheath tumors are rare tumors with a high potential for malignancy. They carry a dismal prognosis, with a pooled local recurrence rate of 42%, distant metastasis rate of 27%, and mortality rate of 26%. The findings from this study suggest a trend favoring the use of GTR alone or STR with radiation therapy over STR alone. Mortality was similar regardless, which highlights the need for the development of effective treatment options to improve survival in patients with melanotic schwannomas.