Survivin expression by metastatic melanoma predicts poor disease outcome in patients receiving adjuvant polyvalent vaccine

Int J Cancer. 2005 Dec 20;117(6):1032-8. doi: 10.1002/ijc.21267.


Survivin and livin are members of the inhibitor of apoptosis protein (IAP) family. We hypothesized that elevated expression levels of these 2 IAP genes in resected advanced-stage metastatic melanoma lesions would be associated with poor disease outcome in patients receiving a polyvalent therapeutic cancer vaccine (Canvaxintrade mark). A quantitative real-time RT-PCR (qRT) assay for survivin and livin genes was used to assess mRNA expression in 63 metastatic melanomas obtained during cytoreductive surgery of American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) stage IV melanoma. Nineteen of 63 metastatic melanoma patients received Canvaxin pre- and postoperatively, and 37 patients received only postoperative Canvaxin. Expression of survivin and livin protein was assessed by immunohistochemistry (IHC) and then correlated with mRNA. Survivin mRNA was detected in 62 of 63 (98%) melanoma specimens ranging from 0-5.96 x 10(4) mRNA copies of total RNA. Lower mRNA copy levels of survivin significantly correlated with improved overall survival among the 37 patients who received Canvaxin postoperatively but not preoperatively (log-rank test, p = 0.023). Among patients with low survivin mRNA copies, those who received postoperative Canvaxin did significantly better than patients who received pre- and postoperative Canvaxin (p = 0.003). Livin mRNA was detectable in 60 of 63 (95%) metastatic melanoma specimens but had no significant prognostic utility. These studies demonstrate that lower levels of survivin in recurrent metastatic melanomas are associated with significantly improved survival in patients receiving postoperative adjuvant immunotherapy. Overall, the study indicates survivin expression in metastatic melanomas can significantly influence disease outcome and patient responses to immunotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / analysis
  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / genetics
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cancer Vaccines / administration & dosage*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Female
  • Gene Expression*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Immunotherapy
  • Inhibitor of Apoptosis Proteins / analysis
  • Inhibitor of Apoptosis Proteins / genetics
  • Male
  • Melanoma / chemistry
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Melanoma / therapy*
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / analysis
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / genetics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasm Proteins / analysis
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prognosis
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative
  • Survival Rate
  • Survivin


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • BIRC5 protein, human
  • BIRC7 protein, human
  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Canvaxin
  • Inhibitor of Apoptosis Proteins
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Survivin