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Clin Cancer Res. 2007 Nov 1;13(21):6344-50.

Microphthalmia-associated transcription factor gene amplification in metastatic melanoma is a prognostic marker for patient survival, but not a predictive marker for chemosensitivity and chemotherapy response.

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  • 1Skin Cancer Unit, German Cancer Research Center and University Medical Center Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany.



The microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF) is regarded as a key oncogene of the melanocytic lineage since it was detected by a genome-wide analysis to be strongly amplified in 15% to 20% of metastatic melanomas. MITF gene amplification was shown to be associated with a reduced survival in metastatic melanoma patients, and reduction of MITF activity was shown to sensitize melanoma cell lines to chemotherapeutics, suggesting the intratumoral MITF gene copy number as a predictive biomarker of response and survival after chemotherapy.


To validate this hypothesis, we investigated MITF gene amplification in tumor tissues obtained from 116 metastatic melanoma patients before an individualized sensitivity-directed chemotherapy using quantitative real-time PCR. MITF amplification rates were correlated with tumor chemosensitivity quantified by an ATP-based luminescence assay and with chemotherapy outcome in terms of response and survival.


Of 116 tumor tissues, 104 were evaluable for MITF gene amplification. Strong amplification (> or =4 copies per cell) was detected in 24 of 104 tissues (23%), whereas 62 of 104 tissues (60%) harbored >3 copies per cell. Strong MITF gene amplification was associated with a reduced disease-specific survival (P = 0.031). However, no correlation was found between MITF copy number and in vitro chemosensitivity or in vivo chemotherapy response.


Our findings suggest that strong amplifications of the melanoma oncogene MITF affects patient survival but does not influence tumor chemosensitivity and chemotherapy response. Thus, the MITF gene copy number seems a useful prognostic marker in metastatic melanoma but could not be confirmed as a predictive marker of chemosensitivity and chemotherapy response.

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