Disparities in the Receipt of Systemic Treatment in Metastatic Melanoma

January, 01, 2024 | Select Oncology Journal Articles


In 2011, immunotherapy and targeted therapy revolutionized melanoma treatment. However, inequities in their use may limit the benefits seen by certain patients.


We performed a retrospective review of patients in the National Cancer Database for patients with stage IV melanoma from 2 time periods: 2004–2010 and 2016–2020, distinguishing between those who received systemic therapy and those who did not. We investigated the rates and factors associated with treatment omission. We employed Kaplan-Meier analysis to explore the impact of treatment on overall survival.


A total of 19,961 patients met the inclusion criteria: 7621 patients were diagnosed in 2004–2010 and 12,340 patients in 2016–2020, of whom 54.9% and 28.3% did not receive systemic treatment, respectively. The rate of “no treatment” has decreased to a plateau of ∼25% in 2020. Median overall survival was improved with treatment in both time periods (2004–2010: 8.8 vs. 5.6 mo [P<0.05]; and 2016–2020: 25.9 vs. 4.3 mo [P<0.05]). Nonmedical factors associated with the omission of treatment in both periods included low socioeconomic status, Medicaid or no health insurance, and treatment at low-volume centers. In the period from 2016 to 2020, patients treated at nonacademic programs were also less likely to receive treatment.


Systemic therapies significantly improve survival for patients with metastatic melanoma, but significant disparities exist with their receipt. Local efforts are needed to ensure all patients benefit from these revolutionary treatments.

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