Background: Histopathologic examination is sometimes inadequate for accurate and reproducible diagnosis of certain melanocytic neoplasms. As a result, more sophisticated and objective methods have been sought. The goal of this study was to identify a gene expression signature that reliably differentiated benign and malignant melanocytic lesions and evaluate its potential clinical applicability. Herein, we describe the development of a gene expression signature and its clinical validation using multiple independent cohorts of melanocytic lesions representing a broad spectrum of histopathologic subtypes.
Methods: Using quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (PCR) on a selected set of 23 differentially expressed genes, and by applying a threshold value and weighting algorithm, we developed a gene expression signature that produced a score that differentiated benign nevi from malignant melanomas.
Results: The gene expression signature classified melanocytic lesions as benign or malignant with a sensitivity of 89% and a specificity of 93% in a training cohort of 464 samples. The signature was validated in an independent clinical cohort of 437 samples, with a sensitivity of 90% and specificity of 91%.
Conclusions: The performance, objectivity, reliability and minimal tissue requirements of this test suggest that it could have clinical application as an adjunct to histopathology in the diagnosis of melanocytic neoplasms.
Keywords: melanoma; molecular diagnositcs; pathology; real time PCR; validation studies.
© 2015 The Authors. Journal of Cutaneous Pathology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.