Researchers work to ID gene markers to assess melanoma recurrence

April 1, 2011

Risk stratification is crucial in helping clinicians identify which melanoma patients would benefit most from adjuvant therapy in the hopes of avoiding tumor recurrence. Though much work still needs to be done, researchers say they are closer to identifying which combination of gene markers can best assess the risk of recurrence in melanoma patients and who should receive adjuvant therapy.

Key Points

New Haven, Conn. - Risk stratification is crucial in helping clinicians identify which melanoma patients would benefit most from adjuvant therapy in the hopes of avoiding tumor recurrence. Though much work still needs to be done, researchers say they are closer to identifying which combination of gene markers can best assess the risk of recurrence in melanoma patients and who should receive adjuvant therapy.

The therapeutic choices that are currently available for adjuvant therapy in melanoma include heavy chemotherapy or systemic therapies that are associated with significant adverse events and toxicities.

Currently, adjuvant therapy is only approved for a very small subset of melanoma patients who either have lymph node metastases at the time of diagnosis or very large tumors. A working set of biomarkers could help weed out those melanoma patients who should receive adjuvant therapy, possibly improving their survival.

Biomarker benefits

One tissue biomarker that is routinely used in melanoma screening assays is Ki-67. This marker is often chosen by researchers because it offers information about whether cells are dividing. A lot of Ki-67 means that one has a lot of tumor cells that are frequently dividing, which can be correlated to a more aggressive tumor. According to Dr. Gould-Rothberg, Ki-67 works and is considered fairly accurate for melanoma prognosis, but it is not the Holy Grail; it should only serve as a red flag.