Purpose: More than 80% of patients who undergo sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy have no nodal metastasis. Here we describe a model that combines clinicopathologic and molecular variables to identify patients with thin and intermediate thickness melanomas who may forgo the SLN biopsy procedure due to their low risk of nodal metastasis.
Patients and methods: Genes with functional roles in melanoma metastasis were discovered by analysis of next generation sequencing data and case control studies. We then used PCR to quantify gene expression in diagnostic biopsy tissue across a prospectively designed archival cohort of 754 consecutive thin and intermediate thickness primary cutaneous melanomas. Outcome of interest was SLN biopsy metastasis within 90 days of melanoma diagnosis. A penalized maximum likelihood estimation algorithm was used to train logistic regression models in a repeated cross validation scheme to predict the presence of SLN metastasis from molecular, clinical and histologic variables.
Results: Expression of genes with roles in epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (glia derived nexin, growth differentiation factor 15, integrin β3, interleukin 8, lysyl oxidase homolog 4, TGFβ receptor type 1 and tissue-type plasminogen activator) and melanosome function (melanoma antigen recognized by T cells 1) were associated with SLN metastasis. The predictive ability of a model that only considered clinicopathologic or gene expression variables was outperformed by a model which included molecular variables in combination with the clinicopathologic predictors Breslow thickness and patient age; AUC, 0.82; 95% CI, 0.78-0.86; SLN biopsy reduction rate of 42% at a negative predictive value of 96%.
Conclusion: A combined model including clinicopathologic and gene expression variables improved the identification of melanoma patients who may forgo the SLN biopsy procedure due to their low risk of nodal metastasis.