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Promising biomarker for melanoma is identified

o 18 years in some patients."

"In cancer research there is a great deal of focus on finding these kinds of molecular markers because we need more reliable means of assessing the risk of cancer recurrence," adds Dr. Polsky, a dermatologist and Associate Director of the NYU Department of Dermatology's Pigmented Lesion Section. "Our findings need to be verified independently by other groups before this marker could be used in the clinic," he says.

The researchers tracked levels of HDM2 using an antibody technique that tags the molecule with a colored stain. The molecule is involved in the pathway for a tumor suppressor gene called p53, which, when mutated, is associated with many cancers but not melanoma. It is not clear why HDM2 levels would be high in people with melanoma, says Dr. Polsky.

The incidence of melanoma continues to rise and this year it is expected to strike 53,600 people in the United States, and some 7,400 people with the disease are expected to die, according to the American Cancer Society. Melanoma is the ninth most common cancer in the United States. Excessive exposure to sunlight, a fair complexion, and a family history of melanoma, among other factors, place people at higher risk for the disease. With early detection and treatment, melanoma is highly curable.

Currently, the thickness of a melanoma at the time of diagnosis, sometimes combined with a procedure called sentinel node biopsy, is used to assess whether a patient's tumor will recur and if additional treatment with immunotherapy is warranted after the cancer is removed. Patients with early stage melanoma, called stage I cancer, have the thinnest lesions and are therefore the least likely to have a recurrence of their original cancer.

The prognosis usually worsens as the tumor extends deeper into the skin. However, levels of HDM2 in the study did not correlate with tumor thickness. "Tumor thickness is not enough," says
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Contact: Marjorie Shaffer
Marjorie.Shaffer@med.nyu.edu
212-404-3555
New York University Medical Center and School of Medicine
3-Dec-2002


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