Researchers develop calculator to better determine prognosis for patients with melanoma

Tool provides physicians with better understanding of survival rates to help patients make more informed treatment decisions

The following stories detail news from the current issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings. They are intended for use as individual stories or as part of a larger story on a particular medical topic.

Mayo Clinic researchers have developed another user-friendly calculator to aid physicians in better understanding complex cancer data and helping their patients make more informed decisions about treatment.

An article about the newest calculator — to determine the baseline prognosis for patients newly-diagnosed with melanoma, an often fatal cancer of the skin, and the potential benefits for such patients of receiving interferon therapy after surgery — appears in the current issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings. The calculator is developed by Mayo Clinic researchers Charles Loprinzi, M.D., Stephen Thome, M.D., and Mike Heldebrant, Ph.D. candidate.

Two years ago these investigators created a similar calculator to help physicians provide breast cancer patients with survival estimates for each treatment option after surgery. Their intent with both calculators has been to further educate and empower physicians and patients by offering an easy-to-use tool for accessing accurate and understandable information about survival rates and treatment options.

“It’s important for physicians to help patients understand their baseline prognosis, their chances of cure from surgery alone, the potential benefits ascribed to other treatments and the risks of the cancer recurring,” says Dr. Loprinzi, a Mayo Clinic oncologist. “We know that most cancer patients want this information for their own knowledge, and to be able to actively discuss and decide with their physicians the most appropriate course of treatment for them.”

Researchers used findings from a previously published surgical database of 17,600 patients and information about the potential benefits from interferon treatments to develop a mathematical formula for calculating individual prognostic information for patients with resected melanoma. Five data items about the primary tumor and the regional lymph nodes are entered into the calculator. The computer then uses the mathematical formula to compute the patient’s potential of living in five years with no recurring cancer if no additional therapy is given. It also calculates the patient’s potential of living five years after undergoing surgery and interferon therapy.

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