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Cancer Res. 2003 May 15;63(10):2578-84.

Tumor classification based on gene expression profiling shows that uveal melanomas with and without monosomy 3 represent two distinct entities.

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Institut für Humangenetik, Universitätsklinikum Essen, 45122 Essen, Germany.


Uveal melanoma is the most common intraocular malignancy. About 50% of patients die of metastases, which almost exclusively originate from primary tumors that have lost one chromosome 3 (monosomy 3). To gain insight into the biological mechanisms that underlie the various metastasizing potential of uveal melanoma, we have determined gene expression levels in 20 primary tumors using oligonucleotide microarrays containing 12500 probe sets. The expression measurements of those 7902 genes that were expressed in more than 10% of tumors were analyzed using two different statistical approaches. We used a modified Wilcoxon rank-sum test to identify genes differentially expressed between tumors with and without monosomy 3. Seven genes showed complete loss of expression in tumors with monosomy 3 but were expressed in tumors with disomy 3. Two of them, CHL1 and fls485, are located within or close to the uveal melanoma susceptibility locus UVM2 at 3p25. However, mutation analysis of both genes in eight tumors with monosomy 3 did not reveal structural or epigenetic alteration. To identify tumor classes, we performed unsupervised hierarchical cluster analysis; this approach separated uveal melanomas into two groups. We found that this classification is strikingly robust because, when tested by "resampling," the same grouping is obtained from 47 of 50 subsamples of genes. In clusterings of the three remaining subsamples, the grouping of only one tumor does not conform with the original classification. Excluding this tumor, cluster analyses of subsamples containing as few as 300 randomly chosen genes consistently result in the same classification, thus indicating that the difference between the two tumor classes is pervasive. Interestingly, all of the tumors in one of the groups have disomy 3, whereas all of the others have monosomy 3. Our findings suggest that there are two distinct entities of uveal melanoma that were previously unrecognized because they are not obviously distinguishable by clinicopathological features.

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