Malignant melanoma in the 21st century: the emerging molecular landscape

Mayo Clin Proc. 2008 Jul;83(7):825-46. doi: 10.4065/83.7.825.


Malignant melanoma presents a substantial clinical challenge. Current diagnostic methods are limited in their ability to diagnose early disease and accurately predict individual risk of disease progression and outcome. The lack of adequate approaches to properly define disease subgroups precludes rational treatment design and selection. Better tools are urgently needed to provide more accurate and personalized melanoma patient management. Recent progress in the understanding of the molecular aberrations that underlie melanoma oncogenesis will likely advance the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of melanoma. The emerging pattern of molecular complexity in melanoma tumors mirrors the clinical diversity of the disease and highlights the notion that melanoma, like other cancers, is not a single disease but a heterogeneous group of disorders that arise from complex molecular changes. Understanding of molecular aberrations involving important cellular processes, such as cellular signaling networks, cell cycle regulation, and cell death, will be essential for better diagnosis, accurate assessment of prognosis, and rational design of effective therapeutics. Defining an individual patient's unique tumor characteristics may lead to personalized prediction of outcomes and selection of therapy. We review the emerging molecular landscape of melanoma and its implications for better management of patients with melanoma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics*
  • Cell Cycle / genetics
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Disease Progression
  • Genetic Techniques
  • Humans
  • Melanoma* / diagnosis
  • Melanoma* / genetics
  • Melanoma* / therapy
  • Molecular Biology / methods*
  • Prognosis


  • Biomarkers, Tumor