In patients with large or symptomatic brain lesions from metastatic melanoma, the value of resection of metastases to facilitate administration of systemic ipilimumab therapy has not yet been described. The authors undertook this study to investigate whether craniotomy creates the opportunity for patients to receive and benefit from ipilimumab who would otherwise succumb to brain metastasis prior to the onset of regression.
All patients with metastatic melanoma who received ipilimumab and underwent craniotomy for metastasis resection between 2008 and 2014 at the Massachusetts General Hospital were identified through retrospective chart review. The final analysis included cases involving patients who underwent craniotomy within 3 months prior to initiation of therapy or up to 6 months after cessation of ipilimumab administration.
Twelve patients met the inclusion criteria based on timing of therapy (median age 59.2). The median number of metastases at the time of craniotomy was 2. The median number of ipilimumab doses received was 4. Eleven of 12 courses of ipilimumab were stopped for disease progression, and 1 was stopped for treatment-induced colitis. Eight of 12 patients had improvement in their performance status following craniotomy. Of the 6 patients requiring corticosteroids prior to craniotomy, 3 tolerated corticosteroid dose reduction after surgery. Ten of 12 patients had died by the time of data collection, with 1 patient lost to follow-up. The median survival after the start of ipilimumab treatment was 7 months.
In this series, patients who underwent resection of brain metastases in temporal proximity to receiving ipilimumab had qualitatively improved performance status following surgery in most cases. Surgery facilitated corticosteroid reduction in select patients. Larger analyses are required to better understand possible synergies between craniotomy for melanoma metastases and ipilimumab treatment.