Molecular Staging of Sentinel Lymph Nodes Identifies Melanoma Patients at Increased Risk of Nodal Recurrence

Charles W. Kimbrough, Michael E. Egger, Kelly M. McMasters, Arnold J. Stromberg, Robert C.G. Martin, Prejesh Philips, Charles R. Scoggins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background Molecular staging of sentinel lymph nodes (SLNs) may identify patients who are node-negative by standard microscopic staging but are at increased risk for regional nodal recurrence; such patients may benefit from completion lymph node dissection (CLND). Study Design In a multicenter, randomized clinical trial, patients with tumor-negative SLNs by standard pathology (hematoxylin and eosin [H and E] serial sections and immunohistochemistry [IHC]) underwent reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis of SLNs for melanoma-specific mRNA. Microscopically negative/PCR+ patients were randomized to observation, CLND, or CLND with high-dose interferon (HDI). For this post-hoc analysis, clinicopathologic features and survival outcomes, including overall survival (OS) and disease-free survival (DFS), were compared between PCR+ patients who underwent CLND vs observation. Microscopic and molecular node-negative (PCR-) patients were included for comparison. Results A total of 556 patients were PCR+: 180 underwent observation, and 376 underwent CLND. An additional 908 PCR- patients were observed. Median follow-up was 72 months. Disease-free survival (DFS) was significantly better for PCR+ patients who underwent CLND compared with observation (p = 0.0218). No statistically significant differences in OS or distant disease-free survival (DDFS) were seen. Regional lymph node recurrence-free survival (LNRFS) was improved in PCR+ patients with CLND compared to observation (p = 0.0065). The PCR+ patients in the observation group had the worst DFS; those with CLND had similar DFS to that in the PCR- group (p = 0.9044). Conclusions Patients with microscopically negative/PCR+ SLN have an increased risk of nodal recurrence that was mitigated by CLND. Although CLND did not affect OS, these data suggest that molecular detection of melanoma-specific mRNA in the SLN predicts a greater risk of nodal recurrence and deserves further study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-363
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American College of Surgeons
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 by the American College of Surgeons. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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