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A Journal on Internal Medicine

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Panminerva Medica 2001 June;43(2):109-13


language: English

Clinical significance of the molecular detection of melanoma cells circulating in the peripheral blood in melanoma patients

Konstantopoulos K., Psatha M., Kalotychou V., Frangia N., Ioannovits I., Meletis I., Loukopoulos D.

From the University of Athens School of Medicine, First Department of Medicine, Laikon Hospital, Athens, Greece and *Department of Plastic Surgery, Athens General Public Hospital, Athens, Greece


Background. Blood cir­cu­lat­ing mel­a­no­ma ­cells may be impor­tant for the ­spread of the dis­ease. The cur­rent meth­ods are not sen­si­tive in detect­ing ­micro metas­ta­ses. Tyrosinase mRNA can be detect­ed in periph­er­al ­blood by a molec­u­lar ­test. As tyros­i­nase is ­expressed ­only in mel­a­noc­y­tes and mel­a­noc­y­tes nor­mal­ly do not cir­cu­late in the ­blood, the ­test may ­prove reli­able in detect­ing cir­cu­lat­ing mel­a­no­ma ­cells.
Methods. Experimental ­design: we ­used a ­reverse-tran­scrip­tion poly­me­rase ­chain reac­tion (RT-PCR) detect­ing tyros­i­nase mRNA in the ­blood. A pros­pec­tive inves­ti­ga­tion in mel­a­no­ma ­patients under­go­ing sur­gery was con­duct­ed; fol­low-up dura­tion was 12 ­months. Setting: University Department Laboratory and Melanoma Clinic of a Tertiary Hospital. Patients: a ­total of 27 Greek ­patients ­with a diag­no­sis of malig­nant mel­a­no­ma at dif­fer­ent stag­es of the dis­ease; 12 ­months fol­low-up ­after sur­gery. Samples ­form 12 ­healthy vol­un­teers and 13 ­patients ­with chron­ic mye­log­e­nous leu­ke­mia ­served as con­trols. Interventions: ­none. Measures: ­none.
Results. We detect­ed mRNA tyros­i­nase in the periph­er­al ­blood in 16 out of 27 mel­a­no­ma ­patients stud­ied. No tyros­i­nase mRNA was detect­ed in any of the 25 sam­ples ­from the con­trols. Two of the 16 pos­i­tive cas­es devel­oped a metas­ta­sis with­in the ­next 12 ­months fol­low­ing test­ing. The oth­er 14 pos­i­tive cas­es ­remain metas­ta­sis ­free for ­this peri­od, as ­also did the ­test neg­a­tive cas­es.
Conclusions. Detection of ­blood cir­cu­lat­ing mel­a­no­ma ­cells by a RT-PCR tech­nique, may be help­ful in defin­ing mel­a­no­ma ­patients who are at ­risk for the ­spread of the dis­ease.

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