Histological expression of tumour necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) in human primary melanoma

Luc P Bron, Richard A Scolyer, John F Thompson, Peter Hersey
Pathology 2004, 36 (6): 561-5

AIMS: Tumour necrosis factor-related apoptosis ligand (TRAIL) appears to selectively induce apoptosis in a wide range of cultured malignant cells, including melanoma. This study was designed to attempt to clarify the role of TRAIL in the biology of human melanoma.

METHODS: Tissue sections cut from formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue blocks of 45 primary cutaneous melanomas were tested for expression of TRAIL using immunohistochemistry. The intensity, pattern of staining and percentage of positively stained tumour cells were evaluated in each melanoma. Breslow thickness, ulcerative state, dermal mitotic rate and the presence of tumour infiltrating lymphocytes were measured/determined in each case. Median follow up for the cohort of patients was 10 months (range 1-18). Survival analysis was conducted using the Kaplan-Meier method. The level of expression of TRAIL was compared with the various histological determinants using the two-tailed Fisher's exact test and the chi2-test.

RESULTS: Overall and disease-free survival were 72 and 48%, respectively, and did not correlate with TRAIL expression. Among the pathological prognostic determinants, only mitotic rate showed a statistically significant correlation with TRAIL expression using the chi2-test (P=0.04).

CONCLUSION: We conclude that TRAIL expression in melanoma defines a more aggressive/proliferative phenotype, either through selection of apoptotic resistant cells or by secondary induction of other factors enhancing proliferation of more malignant cells. Analysis of a larger group of patients with longer follow-up is required to determine whether TRAIL expression correlates with survival of patients.

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