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Summary

Background

Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is known to be abnormally expressed in many human carcinomas, suggesting that there may be an increase in serum EGFR levels in patients with malignant melanoma (MM) and that this might be a possible new tumour marker.

Aim

To assess whether serum EGFR levels might be a marker of MM.

Methods

Serum samples were obtained from 66 patients with MM and 12 healthy controls, and EGFR levels were measured by double-determinant ELISA.

Results

Patients with in situ or stage I MM had significantly higher serum EGFR levels compared with healthy controls. Interestingly, serum EGFR levels decreased gradually with the stage of the tumour, being highest at stage I and lowest at stage IV. There was also a trend towards a reverse correlation between tumour thickness and serum EGFR levels. Moreover, a longitudinal study identified a trend for serum EGFR levels in patients with preoperative MM to decrease compared with patients with recurrent MM.

Conclusions

To our knowledge, this is the first report investigating the serum EGFR levels of patients with MM, and gives new insight into the relationship between EGFR and MM. We found that serum EGFR levels were significantly increased in patients with early-stage MM such as in situ and stage I tumours. Measurements of serum EGFR levels might be of clinical value in the detection of early-stage MM.