Expression of specific gene differentiates moles from melanoma


Decreased levels of the gene p15 may represent a way to determine if a nevus is transitioning to a melanoma, according to findings published in the American Journal of Pathology (Nov. 14, 2016; 186(12):p3094–3099).

During the study, the team stained human nevus and melanoma tissue samples with p15 and p16 antibodies. Staining was evaluated and graded for percentage and intensity to determine an “H-score,” which correlates with the level of protein in the cells.

The authors noted that this approach could also form the basis of a clinical determination, taking the form of an antibody test for p15 from a patient’s biopsy specimen. “If the staining level is high then that would be most consistent with a benign nevus,” said Dr. John Seykora, a professor of dermatology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “If the staining level is low then that would be consistent with a melanoma.”

Dr. Seykora indicated in a press release that their research showed that p15 expression is a robust biomarker for distinguishing a nevus from melanoma.

“Making this distinction has been a long-standing issue for dermatologists. We hope that this new finding will help doctors determine if a nevus has transformed to melanoma. This could help doctors and patients in difficult cases. Current research will hopefully move this into the realm of standard practice in about one to two years,” Dr. Seykora concluded.

Other University of Pennsylvania authors included Laura A. Taylor, Conor O’Day, Tzvete Dentchev, Kyle Hood, Emily Y. Chu, and Todd W. Ridky.

This work was supported by the Dermatology Foundation Career Development Award and the National Institutes of Health (R01 CA-163566, R01 CA-165836).


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