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Summary

Background

It is currently not possible to predict the metastatic potential of early-stage melanoma lesions by histological examination alone; however, a significant number of thin melanomas will progress over time to advanced disease. Molecular biomarkers that could identify patients with melanoma at high risk at the time of original diagnosis would contribute significantly to improved patient outcomes and increased survival. Neuropilin-2 (NRP2), a cell surface receptor involved in tumour-associated angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis, has recently been shown to be expressed in melanoma.

Objectives

To evaluate the potential value of NRP2 gene transcript levels as biomarkers for malignant melanoma progression.

Methods

We measured NRP2 gene expression in a panel of formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue specimens consisting of naevi, primary melanomas and metastatic melanomas using quantitative reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction technique.

Results

NRP2 levels are clearly segregated among the groups of naevi, primary and metastatic melanoma samples with a statistical trend towards increasing NRP2 gene expression correlating with disease progression. Logistic regression analysis reveals that the probability of malignant progression increases with elevated levels of NRP2 (odds ratio of 2·60 with confidence interval 1·29–5·21). Within the group of primary melanomas, there is a positive correlation (r = 0·823) between NRP2 expression and Breslow depth. This correlation was validated in an independent sample set of patients with melanoma.

Conclusions

This preliminary study strongly supports the significance of NRP2 as a useful biomarker for malignant progression of melanoma, which may be useful for early identification of patients with melanoma at high risk.