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Signaling proteins may represent biomarkers for melanoma

WASHINGTON, D.C. For the first time, researchers studying patients with abnormal moles have identified proteins that could help predict whether such moles will progress into melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. The study provides promising evidence that the proteins may represent potential biomarkers for prevention therapy. The results were announced today at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The study, abstract number 5742, also looked at the effect of a common treatment for melanoma, interferon, on the levels of these biomarker proteins.

While investigating the mechanisms of action of interferon treatment on patients at high risk for melanoma recurrence who had multiple abnormal moles, investigators found that two intracellular signaling proteins called signal transducers and activators of transcription, STAT1 and STAT3, were correlated with the degree of mole abnormality when examined under a microscope. The researchers also found that interferon regulated the proteins in a manner that was dependent on its dose.

"While abnormal moles are a major risk factor for new primary melanoma development, it is difficult to know who among these patients will eventually develop the disease," said principal investigator John Kirkwood, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and director of the Melanoma Center at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI). "Rather than aggressively treating all of these patients, our hope with further study is to potentially test for these proteins and select those patients most likely to benefit from specific doses of interferon therapy."

In the study, researchers treated 40 patients at various levels of risk for recurrence of melanoma with interferon administered at either high or low doses. They then examined changes in the appearance of the patients' moles under a microscope and used
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5-Apr-2006


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