A UCSF research team has developed a technique to distinguish benign moles from malignant melanomas by measuring differences in levels of genetic markers. Standard microscopic examinations of biopsied tissue can be ambiguous and somewhat subjective, the researchers say, and supplementing standard practice with the new technique is expected to help clarify difficult-to-diagnose cases.
In a large study of previously diagnosed cases, the new technique distinguished between benign, mole-like skin lesions and melanomas with a success rate higher than 90 percent. It also succeeded with most of the previously misdiagnosed cases, which were among the most difficult to distinguish.
This is the first large-scale study to demonstrate both the high diagnostic accuracy and practicality of a multi-biomarker approach to melanoma diagnosis, said Mohammed Kashani-Sabet, MD, professor of dermatology at UCSF and director of the Melanoma Center at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Kashani-Sabet is lead author on a paper reporting the new finding in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which is scheduled for online publication the week of March 30, 2009. The paper also will appear in a future print issue of PNAS.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. It can spread to almost any organ of the body and is difficult to treat in its advanced stages. Progress in survival rates has been made principally through earlier diagnosis. The genomics-based approach combined with current diagnostic practice can aid earlier detection and contribute to more accurate assessment, report the UCSF scientists who developed the diagnostic tool.
The molecular diagnosis strategy is now being developed for clinical use by a diagnostics company.
To develop the diagnostic tool, the researchers first used a microarray a "gene chip" -- to identify about 1,000 human genes that were present at differ
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University of California - San Francisco