Melanoma accounts for only 4% of skin cancers but is responsible for nearly 80% of skin cancer related deaths. Over the past 30 years, the incidence of melanoma has risen 50% and is continuing to increase at a rate of 3% per year.
The presence of a lymph node metastasis is the most important prognostic factor for patients diagnosed with localized melanoma. By histopathology (H&E/IHC), patients with node involvement have a significantly higher risk of relapse and death. Molecular methods are more sensitive in detecting occult lymph node metastases than standard histopathology and have utility in clinical diagnostics. We are using real-time qRT-PCR to assess the sensitivity and specificity of gene expression of molecular markers for melanoma. Our results will provide independent validation of several melanoma markers currently used in clinical trials and will help identify other markers that could improve the accuracy of RT-PCR assays used for molecular staging in melanoma.