Detection of microscopic melanoma metastases in sentinel lymph nodes

Cancer. 1999 Aug 15;86(4):617-27.


Background: Sentinel lymph node biopsy following radioisotope labeling is a recently developed, minimally invasive surgical staging procedure used in the management of primary cutaneous malignant melanoma. If histologic analysis reveals melanoma metastasis in the sentinel lymph node, completion lymphadenectomy is performed and adjuvant therapy considered. The routine pathologic assessment of the sentinel lymph node consists of bisecting the lymph node along its long axis and histologic examination of one hematoxylin and eosin-stained section of each cut surface.

Methods: In this study, the authors reexamined 235 sentinel lymph nodes reported as negative for melanoma metastasis following routine histologic examination, from 94 patients with American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) Stage I and II cutaneous melanoma.

Results: Deeper sections into the lymph node and immunohistochemical stains with antibodies to S-100, HMB-45, NK1C3, and MART-1 led to the identification of microscopic metastases in 11 sentinel lymph nodes from 11 patients and capsular nevi in 9 sentinel lymph nodes from 8 patients.

Conclusions: Deeper serial sections and immunohistochemical stains detected microscopic metastases in approximately 12% of cases that would be reported as negative for metastasis by routine pathologic analysis. These techniques also allowed for the identification of capsular melanocytic nevi in the sentinel lymph nodes of 9% of patients. [See editorial on pages 551-2, this issue.]

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Neoplasm / analysis
  • Biopsy
  • False Negative Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology*
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Male
  • Melanoma / secondary*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Technetium Tc 99m Sulfur Colloid


  • Antibodies, Neoplasm
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Technetium Tc 99m Sulfur Colloid