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Mod Pathol. 2000 Mar;13(3):217-22.

Concurrent Ki-67 and p53 immunolabeling in cutaneous melanocytic neoplasms: an adjunct for recognition of the vertical growth phase in malignant melanomas?

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  • 1Lauren V. Ackerman Laboratory of Surgical Pathology, Washington University Medical Center, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.


Ki-67 labeling of paraffin sections has been correlated with the number of cells in non-G(o) phases of the replicative cell cycle, and this immunohistochemical technique has been applied to the evaluation of a variety of human neoplasms. Similarly, immunolabeling for p53 protein has been used to detect mutations in the corresponding gene, as a reflection of possible cellular transformation in the same context. Both of these techniques were applied to 253 melanocytic tumors of the skin to assess their possible utility in the diagnosis and subcategorization of such lesions. They included 76 banal (common) nevi (CN), 39 Spitz nevi (SN), 62 superficial spreading malignant melanomas in radial growth (SSMMs), 32 nodular malignant melanomas (NMMs), 21 lentigo maligna melanomas in radial growth (LMMs), and 23 melanomas arising in association with preexisting compound nevi (MCN). One hundred cells were counted randomly in each tumor, and dark, exclusively nuclear reactivity was scored as positive labeling; results were recorded as percentages. Negligible Ki-67 and p53 labeling was seen in CN and SN, at a level that was similar to that obtained in cases of LMM and MCN. The largest proportion of Ki-67-positive and p53-positive cells was observed in NMMs, followed by SSMMs. Radial growth-phase SSMMs and LMMs demonstrated immunoprofiles that were similar to those of melanocytic nevi, and MCN did so as well. The prototypical malignant melanocytic tumor representing the vertical growth phase-nodular melanoma--demonstrated a statistically significant difference from all other lesions in this study with respect to Ki-67 index (P = .008, chi2) and p53 reactivity (P < .000001, chi2). Subsequent concurrent use of a Ki-67 threshold index of 10% and a p53 index of 5% correctly indicated the presence of vertical growth in 75% of NMMs, whereas only 8% of radial growth phase melanomas of other types were colabeled at the same levels of reactivity for the two markers (P < .00001, chi2). Thus, although the distinction between benign and malignant melanocytic tumors could and should not be based on immunohistology for Ki-67 and p53, these results suggest that the latter determinants may, in fact, be used as an adjunct to morphology in the recognition of the vertical growth phase in cutaneous malignant melanomas.

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