TERT Promoter Mutations Are Predictive of Aggressive Clinical Behavior in Patients with Spitzoid Melanocytic Neoplasms

Seungjae Lee, Raymond L. Barnhill, Reinhard Dummer, James Dalton, Jianrong Wu, Alberto Pappo, Armita Bahrami

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119 Scopus citations


Spitzoid neoplasms constitute a morphologically distinct category of melanocytic tumors, encompassing Spitz nevus (benign), atypical Spitz tumor (intermediate malignant potential), and spitzoid melanoma (fully malignant). Currently, no reliable histopathological criteria or molecular marker is known to distinguish borderline from overtly malignant neoplasms. Because TERT promoter (TERT-p) mutations are common in inherently aggressive cutaneous conventional melanoma, we sought to evaluate their prognostic significance in spitzoid neoplasms. We analyzed tumors labeled as atypical Spitz tumor or spitzoid melanoma from 56 patients with available follow-up data for the association of TERT-p mutations, biallelic CDKN2A deletion, biallelic PTEN deletion, kinase fusions, BRAF/NRAS mutations, nodal status, and histopathological parameters with risk of hematogenous metastasis. Four patients died of disseminated disease and 52 patients were alive and disease free without extranodal metastasis (median follow-up, 32.5 months). We found TERT-p mutations in samples from the 4 patients who developed hematogenous metastasis but in none of tumors from patients who had favorable outcomes. Presence of TERT-p mutations was the most significant predictor of haematogenous dissemination (P < 0.0001) among variables analyzed. We conclude that TERT-p mutations identify a clinically high-risk subset of patients with spitzoid tumors. Application of TERT-p mutational assays for risk stratification in the clinic requires large-scale validation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11200
JournalScientific Reports
StatePublished - Jun 10 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research reported in this publication was supported in part by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number P30CA021765 and by the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC). This work was presented in part at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting, Chicago, June 2014. The authors would like to thank Drs. John Kirkwood and Vani Shanker for their critical review of the manuscript, and Valerie McPherson and Dana Hawkins for technical and administrative support.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Nature Publishing Group. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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