Tyrosinase expression in the peripheral blood of stage III melanoma patients is associated with a poor prognosis: a clinical follow-up study of 110 patients

Br J Cancer. 2003 Oct 20;89(8):1457-62. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6601197.


The aim of this study is to define the relationship between the tyrosinase expression in the peripheral blood and the clinical course of the disease in stage III disease-free melanoma patients after radical lymph node dissection. RT-PCR techniques were used to identify tyrosinase mRNA in 110 patients; a total of 542 blood samples were investigated. In all, 54 patients (49%) showed at least one positive result; 13 patients (11.8%) showed baseline positive results: six became negative thereafter, whereas seven showed follow-up positive results until disease progression occurred. One or more positive determinations were found during follow-up in 41 patients with negative baseline tyrosinase. No correlation was found between baseline results and the relapse rate or disease-free survival (DFS), whereas a significant correlation was found between positive tyrosinase results and disease recurrence during follow-up. In fact, 72.9% of positive patients relapsed, but only 19.3% of negative cases did so. The median interval between the positive results and the clinical demonstration of the relapse was 1.9 months (range 1-6.6). Disease-free survival multivariate analysis selected, as independent variables, Breslow thickness (P=0.05), lymph node involvement according to the AJCC classification (P=0.05) and tyrosinase expression (P=0.0001). In conclusion, RT-PCR tyrosinase mRNA expression is a reliable and reproducible marker associated with a high risk of melanoma progression and we encourage its clinical use in routine follow-up.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Lymph Node Excision
  • Male
  • Melanoma / enzymology*
  • Melanoma / pathology*
  • Melanoma / surgery
  • Middle Aged
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / biosynthesis*
  • Prognosis
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Skin Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / surgery


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase