Why is melanoma so metastatic?

Pigment Cell Melanoma Res. 2014 Jan;27(1):19-36. doi: 10.1111/pcmr.12172. Epub 2013 Oct 17.


Malignant melanoma is one of the most aggressive cancers and can disseminate from a relatively small primary tumor and metastasize to multiple sites, including the lung, liver, brain, bone, and lymph nodes. Elucidating the molecular and genetic changes that take place during the metastatic process has led to a better understanding of why melanoma is so metastatic. Herein, we describe the unique features that distinguish melanoma from other solid tumors and contribute to the malignant phenotype of melanoma cells. For example, although melanoma cells are highly antigenic, they are extremely efficient at evading host immune response. Melanoma cells share numerous cell surface molecules with vascular cells, are highly angiogenic, are mesenchymal in nature, and possess a higher degree of 'stemness' than do other solid tumors. Finally, analysis of melanoma mutations has revealed that the gene expression profile of malignant melanoma is different from that of other cancers. Elucidating these molecular and genetic processes in highly metastatic melanoma can lead to the development of improved treatment and individualized therapy options.

Keywords: angiogenesis; mesenchymal phenotype; metastasis; mutations profile; stemness.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Neoplasm* / genetics
  • Antigens, Neoplasm* / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Melanoma* / genetics
  • Melanoma* / metabolism
  • Melanoma* / pathology
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic* / genetics
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic* / metabolism
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic* / pathology
  • Organ Specificity


  • Antigens, Neoplasm