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Br J Cancer. 2006 Mar 27;94(6):835-41.

Metallothionein - overexpression as a highly significant prognostic factor in melanoma: a prospective study on 1270 patients.

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Clinical Department of Dermatology and Venerology, Innsbruck Medical University, Anichstrasse 35, Innsbruck A-6020, Austria.


Metallothioneins (MT) are ubiquitous, intracellular small proteins with high affinity for heavy metal ions. In the last decades, it was shown that MT overexpression in a variety of cancers is associated with resistance to anticancer drugs and is combined with a poor prognosis. In this prospective study, we examined the role of MT overexpression in melanoma patients as a prognostic factor for progression and survival. Between 1993 and 2004, 3386 patients with primary cutaneous melanoma were investigated by using a monoclonal antibody against MT on routinely fixed, paraffin-embedded tissues. In all, 1270 patients could be followed up for further statistical analysis (Fisher's exact test, Mantel-Haenszel chi2 test, Kaplan-Meier curves). The MT data of disease-free interval and overall survival were compared univariately and multivariately in Cox regression analysis. Immunohistochemical overexpression of MT in tumour cells of patients with primary melanoma (310 of 1270; 24.4%) was associated with a higher risk for progression (117 of 167; 70.1%) and reduced survival (80 of 110; 72.7%) of the disease (P<0.0001). Similarly, Kaplan-Meier curves gave highly significant disadvantages for the MT-positive group. Univariate analysis (relative risk 7.4; 95% confidence interval (CI) 5.2-10.2; P<0.0001 for progression; relative risk 7.1; 95% CI 4.7-10.9; P<0.0001 for survival), as well as multivariate analysis with other prognostic markers resulted in MT overexpression as a highly significant and independent factor for prognosis in primary melanoma.

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