Blood test could check if melanoma is likely to spread

Melanoma patients have a good chance of successful removal of the skin cancer if it is caught early enough, before metastasis. But the problem is that there is no clear consensus on how often melanoma patients should be tested. And the tests themselves can be expensive--a combination of imaging tests, blood tests and physical examinations. The risks of metastasis varies from less than 10 percent for those with stage 1A melanoma, to as high as 70 percent with stage 3C. An easier way to predict metastasis would solve many problems. Scientists at Yale University think they've found a way in a set of plasma biomarkers.

In research published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, Yale's Harriet Kluger and colleagues identified seven plasma biomarkers that were higher in patients with metastatic melanoma than patients with early-stage disease. The biomarkers are: CEACAM, ICAM-1, osteopontin, MIA, GDF-15, TIMP-1 and S100B.

"This finding will need to be confirmed prospectively before it is used in the clinic, but it shows that such testing is possible," Kluger said in a release.

Iman Osman, director of the interdisciplinary melanoma program at the NYU Langone Medical Center, told HealthDay News that the idea of a blood test for metastatic melanoma as "important and clinically relevant."

"The data are interesting; however, there are several questions that remain to be answered," Osman told HealthDay. "Can the panel of markers predict recurrence at the time of diagnosis, and [is] the combination of markers...better than the standard of care?"

According to Kluger, the answer to that last question is a definite yes. "The rate at which melanoma is increasing is dramatic, and there is a huge number of patients under surveillance," Kluger said. "Our current method of surveillance includes periodic imaging, which creates huge societal costs."

- read the release from the American Association for Cancer Research
- and HealthDay's report
- and here's the abstract in Clinical Cancer Research