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J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2007 May;21(5):669-77.

Comparison of metallothionein-overexpression with sentinel lymph node biopsy as prognostic factors in melanoma.

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Clinical Department of Dermatology and Venerology, Innsbruck Medical University, Innsbruck, Austria.



Metallothioneins (MT) are ubiquitous, intracellular small proteins with high affinity for heavy metal ions. Immunohistochemical MT overexpression in paraffin-embedded tissues of patients with primary melanoma is associated with poor prognosis. While sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy is an established surgical technique for high-risk melanoma patients with predictive value for progression, the benefit of this procedure for the individual patient's overall survival remains unclear.


We examined the role of MT overexpression in comparison with SLN biopsy in melanoma patients as a prognostic marker for progression and survival. One hundred and fifty-eight (158) patients underwent SLN biopsy due to high-risk melanoma. Primary melanoma specimens were investigated by using a monoclonal antibody against MT on routinely fixed, paraffin-embedded tissues. The patients were followed up (median 37 months); the data of disease free survival and overall survival were calculated with a broad panel of statistical analyses.


Twenty-eight (18%) out of 158 recruited melanoma patients developed metastases, 17 (11%) patients died due to widespread disease. Kaplan-Meier curves gave significant disadvantages for the MT-positive as well as the SLN-positive group for progression and survival. In the Fisher's exact test and Pearson's chi(2)-test MT overexpression was highly significant for progression, whereas SLN biopsy failed significance. In univariate as well as multivariate Cox regression analysis MT overexpression proved an excellent marker for progression (P=0.007 and P=0.009), although the P-values for survival were not significant. In contrast, while in the univariate analysis SLN biopsy did not show significant results for progression it did for survival, and in the multivariate analysis reached a P-value < 0.05 for both measured endpoints.


Results corroborate the validity of MT overexpression in primary melanoma as a useful prognostic marker in melanoma patients. Accuracy is comparable and to some degree supplementary to the results of SLN biopsy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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