Identification of fusions with potential clinical significance in melanoma

Mod Pathol. 2022 Dec;35(12):1837-1847. doi: 10.1038/s41379-022-01138-z. Epub 2022 Jul 23.


Though uncommon in melanoma, gene fusions may have therapeutic implications. Next generation sequencing-based clinical assays, designed to detect relevant gene fusions, mutations, and copy number changes, were performed on 750 melanomas (375 primary and 375 metastases) at our institution from 2014-2021. These included 599 (80%) cutaneous, 38 (5%) acral, 11 (1.5%) anorectal, 23 (3%) sinonasal, 27 (3.6%) eye (uveal/ conjunctiva), 11 (1.5%) genital (vulva/penile), and 41 (5.5%) melanomas of unknown primary. Sixteen fusions (2%) were detected in samples from 16 patients: 12/599 (2%) cutaneous, 2/38 (5%) acral, 1/9 (11%) vulva, 1/23(4.3%) sinonasal; and 12/16 (75%) fusions were potentially targetable. We identified two novel rearrangements: NAGS::MAST2 and NOTCH1::GNB1; and two fusions that have been reported in other malignancies but not in melanoma: CANT1::ETV4 (prostate cancer) and CCDC6::RET (thyroid cancer). Additional fusions, previously reported in melanoma, included: EML4::ALK, MLPH::ALK, AGAP3::BRAF, AGK::BRAF, CDH3::BRAF, CCT8::BRAF, DIP2B::BRAF, EFNB1::RAF1, LRCH3::RAF1, MAP4::RAF1, RUFY1::RAF1, and ADCY2::TERT. Fusion positive melanomas harbored recurrent alterations in TERT and CDKN2A, among others. Gene fusions were exceedingly rare (0.2%) in BRAF/RAS/NF1-mutant tumors and were detected in 5.6% of triple wild-type melanomas. Interestingly, gene rearrangements were significantly enriched within the subset of triple wild-type melanomas that harbor TERT promoter mutations (18% versus 2%, p < 0.0001). Thirteen (81%) patients were treated with immunotherapy for metastatic disease or in the adjuvant setting. Six of 12 (50%) patients with potentially actionable fusions progressed on immunotherapy, and 3/6 (50%) were treated with targeted agents (ALK and MEK inhibitors), 2 off-label and 1 as part of a clinical trial. One patient with an AGAP3::BRAF fusion positive melanoma experienced a 30-month long response to trametinib. We show that, detecting fusions, especially in triple wild-type melanomas with TERT promoter mutations, may have a clinically significant impact in patients with advanced disease who have failed front-line immunotherapy.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Gene Fusion
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melanoma* / pathology
  • Mutation
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf* / genetics
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / genetics


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • DIP2B protein, human
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins