MicroRNA Biomarkers Make Melanoma Diagnosis More Objective

Source: Genetic Engineer & Biotechnology News, October 2019

Melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer but one of the most deadly, and the survival rate for advanced disease is just 20%. Although melanoma is curable when detected early, diagnosis is challenging, and misdiagnosis of cutaneous melanoma is among the most significant contributors to medical malpractice lawsuits in the United States.

Scientists headed by a team at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), now report on a new approach to diagnosing melanoma that uses microRNA (miRNA) biomarkers to indicate the presence of even just a few melanoma cells in biopsies of skin tumors that may contain predominantly benign cells.

“miRNAs are highly stable and measuring them is cheap, easy, and requires little tissue,” commented lead investigator Robert L. Judson-Torres, PhD, formerly at UCSF and currently with Huntsman Cancer Institute and the department of dermatology at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City. “Importantly, this new approach can identify just a few malignant melanoma cells, even when the majority of a tumor is benign. The early and accurate diagnosis of melanoma is paramount for optimizing patient outcome … Our hope is that with full clinical validation of our approach, all patients can receive the same level of diagnostic accuracy …”.

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