Background: We aim to validate a seven-marker immunohistochemical signature, consisting of Bax, Bcl-X, PTEN, COX-2, (loss of) ß-Catenin, (loss of) MTAP and (presence of) CD20, in an independent patient cohort and test clinical feasibility. Methods: We performed staining of the mentioned antibodies in tissue of 88 primary melanomas and calculated a risk score for each patient. Data were correlated with clinical parameters and outcome (recurrence-free, distant metastasis-free and melanoma-specific survival). Results: The seven-marker signature was able to identify high-risk patients within stages IB-III melanoma patients that have a significantly higher risk of disease recurrence, metastasis, and death. In particular, the high sensitivity of relapse prediction (>94%) in sentinel negative patients (stages IB–IIC) was striking (negative predictive value of 100% for melanoma-specific survival and distant metastasis-free survival, and 97.5% for relapse-free survival). For stage III patients (positive nodal status), the negative predictive value was 100% with the seven-marker signature. Conclusions: The seven-marker signature can help to further select high-risk patients in stages IIB-C but also in earlier stages IB–IIA and be a useful tool for therapy decisions in the adjuvant and future neo-adjuvant settings. Stage III patients with measurable lymph node disease classified as high-risk with the seven-marker signature are potential candidates for neoadjuvant immunotherapy.
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