Purpose of review: Given the capricious nature of melanoma, biomarkers that provide significant insight into the behavior of melanoma would greatly aid in identifying patients at risk for disease progression, those whose disease has progressed subclinically, and those who would benefit from currently available systemic therapies. This review focuses on molecular prognostic markers in primary melanoma, markers that aid in the detection of metastatic melanoma, and markers predictive of systemic therapy.
Recent findings: Significant advances have been made in the field of melanoma biomarkers. Utilization of paraffin-embedded tissue and multiple markers have improved the RT-PCR assays for detection of melanoma cells in lymph node tissue as well as peripheral blood. Lymphangiogenesis has been identified as a novel mechanism for melanoma progression, and candidate markers in the NF-kappaB signaling pathway have been identified to play a key role in melanoma: tumor vasculature interactions. Loss of heterozygosity has been used to identify potential candidates for biochemotherapy. Furthermore, serum S100B protein has been shown to be superior to lactate dehydrogenase in predicting prognosis and response to treatment for patients with advanced melanoma.
Summary: Although recent studies have contributed greatly to the development of melanoma markers, it is anticipated that the application of gene expression profiling and proteomics techniques to melanocytic neoplasms will result in the identification of even more effective biomarkers for melanoma than those currently in clinical use.