Stage 3D: Potential Benefits of Adjuvant Treatment

Patient Guide

Stage 3D: Potential Benefits of Adjuvant Treatment

Without Adjuvant Treatment 

Figure A: Stage 3D Melanoma: Recurrence free at 5 years without treatment

Figure A explanatory : The diagram above shows data for individuals 5 years after receiving a Stage 3D diagnosis. It is based on a study using a global international melanoma database from ten countries (Eighth Edition International Melanoma Database)1. 

For 100 people diagnosed with Stage 3D melanoma who are treated with surgery alone (and do not have adjuvant therapy), we would expect 32 people to have had no further recurrence of their melanoma five years after surgery. This is 32% of individuals — shown in yellow.

After the same period (within five years of their surgery), sixty eight people in the group will have needed more treatment for their melanoma. The melanoma will therefore have recurred (returned) in 68% of individuals — shown in purple.

With Adjuvant Treatment

What is the potential benefit of adjuvant treatment at Stage 3D?

Research trials show that adjuvant treatment can be between 10% – 50% effective at preventing a relapse after 5 years, dependent on cancer stage and the type of treatment given. 2,3,4

Figure B: Stage 3D Melanoma: Recurrence free at 5 years with treatment.

An example of 50% benefit of adjuvant treatment

NB: Data for 10 year recurrence free rates is currently not available

The illustration shows how 50% effectiveness of adjuvant treatment would look for individuals at Stage 3D of melanoma using the same international melanoma database figures above.

  • 32 people would already have been expected NOT to have had further problems after just their surgery. This means that the adjuvant therapy will not change what is going to happen to their melanoma and they may experience side effects from an unnecessary treatment. However, we have no way of identifying who these people are.
  • 34 people will still go on to have further problems from their melanoma even though they had the adjuvant therapy. This means that the adjuvant therapy has not changed what has happened to their melanoma.
  • However, an extra 34 people would be expected not to have further problems from their melanoma. For this group, the adjuvant therapy has changed what has happened to their melanoma.

 The number of people melanoma free at 5 years would increase significantly from 32% to 66%. 

As mentioned previously, research indicated that adjuvant treatment can be between 10-50% effective. If the treatment was 10% effective, this would only translate to  6.8 people in 100 no longer having a relapse after 5 years. The melanoma free percentage would therefore be 38.8%. 


1. Gershenwald JE et al., Melanoma staging: Evidence-based changes in the American Joint Committee on Cancer eighth edition cancer staging manual. CA Cancer J Clin. 2017 Nov;67(6):472-492. doi: 10.3322/caac.21409. Epub 2017 Oct 13. PMID: 29028110; PMCID: PMC5978683

2. Hindié E. Adjuvant therapy in stage IIIA melanoma. Lancet Oncol. 2021 Jul;22(7):e299. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(21)00346-6. PMID: 34197759.

3. Dummer R, et al., Five-Year Analysis of Adjuvant Dabrafenib plus Trametinib in Stage III Melanoma. N Engl J Med. 2020 Sep 17;383(12):1139-1148. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa2005493. Epub 2020 Sep 2. PMID: 32877599.

4. Eggermont AMM, et al., Longer Follow-Up Confirms Recurrence-Free Survival Benefit of Adjuvant  Pembrolizumab in High-Risk Stage III Melanoma: Updated Results From the EORTC 1325-MG/KEYNOTE-054 Trial. J Clin Oncol. 2020 Nov 20;38(33):3925-3936. doi: 10.1200/JCO.20.02110.

Adjuvant treatment guide by Melanoma stage

The potential benefits and risks for adjuvant treatment vary by stage. Please select your melanoma stage from the links below to see the correct information.