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Dermatol Res Pract. 2012;2012:684032. doi: 10.1155/2012/684032. Epub 2011 Oct 20.

Molecular dermatopathology in malignant melanoma.

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  • 1Department of Dermatopathology, University Hospital Sart Tilman, 4000 Liège, Belgium.


At present, immunohistochemistry is taken for granted in the establishment of malignant melanoma (MM) diagnosis. In recent years, molecular diagnosis in dermatopathology has benefited from a vast array of advances in the fields of genomics and proteomics. Sensitive techniques are available for detecting specific DNA and RNA sequences by molecular hybridization. This paper intends to update methods of molecular cytogenetics available as diagnostic adjuncts in the field of MM. Cytogenetics has highlighted the pathogenesis of atypical melanocytic neoplasms with emphasis on the activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signalling pathway during the initiation step of the neoplasms. 20 to 40% of MM families have mutations in the tumour suppressor gene p16 or CDKN2A. In addition, somatic mutations in p16, p53, BRAF, and cKIT are present in MM. Genome-wide scan analyses on MM indicate positive associations for genes involved in melanocytic naevi, but MM is likely caused by a variety of common low-penetrance genes. Molecular dermatopathology is expanding, and its use in the assessment of melanocytic neoplasms appears to be promising in the fields of research and diagnosis. Molecular dermatopathology will probably make its way to an increased number of diagnostic laboratories. The expected benefit should improve the patient management. This evolution points to a need for evolution in the training requirements and role of dermatopathologists.

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