Multimarker Reverse Transcriptase-Polymerase Chain Reaction Assay in Lymphatic Drainage and Sentinel Node Tumor Burden
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Purpose: We assessed molecular (presence of melanoma cells markers in lymph fluid [LY]) and pathological features (sentinel lymph node [SN] tumor burden according to Rotterdam criteria, metastases microanatomic location) and correlated them with survival and melanoma prognostic factors in a group of patients with positive SN biopsy. Methods: We analyzed 368 consecutive SN-positive patients after completion lymph node dissection (CLND). In 321 patients we obtained data on SLN microanatomic location/tumor burden (only 7 cases had metastases <0.1 mm); in 137 we additionally analyzed 24-hour collected LY after CLND (multimarker reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction [MM-RT-PCR] with primers for tyrosinase, MART1 (MelanA), and uMAGE mRNA (27.7% positive samples)]. Median follow-up time was 41 months. Results: According to univariate analysis, the following factors had a negative impact on overall survival (OS): higher Breslow thickness (P = .0001), ulceration (P < .0001), higher Clark level (P = .008), male gender (P = .0001), metastatic lymph nodes >1 (P < .0001), nodal metastases extracapsular extension (P < .0001), metastases to additional non-SNs (P = .0004), micrometastases size ≥0.1 mm (P = .0006), and positive LY MM-RT-PCR (P = .0007). SN tumor burden showed linear correlation with increasing Breslow thickness (P = .01). The 5-year OS rates for SLN tumor burden <0.1 mm, 1-1.0 mm, and >1.0 mm were 84%/66%/44%, respectively, and for positive and negative LY MM-RT-PCR 47%/0%, respectively. The independent factors for shorter OS (multivariate analysis): male gender, primary tumor ulceration, number of involved nodes ≥4, micrometastases size >1.0 mm, and, in additional model including molecular analysis-positive MM-RT-PCR results (hazard ratio [HR] 3.2), micrometastases size >1.0 mm (HR 1.13), and primary tumor ulceration (HR 2.17). Similar results were demonstrated for disease-free survival (DFS) data. Conclusions: SN tumor burden categories according to Rotterdam criteria and the positive result of LY MM-RT-PCR assay demonstrated additional, independent prognostic value in SN-positive melanoma patients, showing significant correlation with shorter DFS and OS.