Pathogenic germline variants are associated with poor survival in stage III/IV melanoma patients

Sci Rep. 2020 Oct 19;10(1):17687. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-74956-3.


Patients with late stage resected cutaneous melanoma have poor overall survival (OS) and experience irreversible adverse events from systemic therapy. There is a clinical need to identify biomarkers to predict outcome. Performing germline/tumour whole-exome sequencing of 44 stage III/IV melanoma patients we identified pathogenic germline mutations in CDKN2A, CDK4, ATM, POLH, MRE11A, RECQL4 and XPC, affecting 7/44 patients. These mutations were associated with poor OS (p = 0.0082). We confirmed our findings in The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) human skin cutaneous melanoma cohort where we identified pathogenic variants in 40/455 patients (p = 0.0203). Combining these cohorts (n = 499) further strengthened these findings showing germline carriers had worse OS (p = 0.0009). Additionally, we determined whether tumour mutation burden (TMB) or BRAF status were prognostic markers of survival. Low TMB rate (< 20 Mut/Mb; p = 0.0034) and BRAF p.V600 mutation (p = 0.0355) were associated with worse progression-free survival. Combining these biomarkers indicated that V600 mutant patients had significantly lower TMB (p = 0.0155). This was confirmed in the TCGA (n = 443, p = 0.0007). Integrative analysis showed germline mutation status conferred the highest risk (HR 5.2, 95% CI 1.72-15.7). Stage IV (HR 2.5, 0.74-8.6) and low TMB (HR 2.3, 0.57-9.4) were similar, whereas BRAF V600 status was the weakest prognostic biomarker (HR 1.5, 95% CI 0.44-5.2).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Female
  • Germ-Line Mutation*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melanoma / genetics
  • Melanoma / pathology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf / genetics
  • Skin Neoplasms / genetics
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Survival Analysis


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf