New Diagnostic Test May Help Answer the Question “Is My Mole a Melanoma?”

I had never heard of this marker before but it looks interesting.

Ian Katz

Researchers From Weill Cornell Medical College Report That the New Technique Is Greater Than 90 Percent Sensitive in Identifying Melanoma, the Deadliest Form of Skin Cancer ( –

NEW YORK (Nov. 21, 2011) — Determining whether a mole is a potentially life-threatening melanoma is tricky business, leading to both under- and overdiagnosis. Now, researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College have designed, developed and studied a new diagnostic staining test they say can provide a novel measure of whether a mole is clearly cancerous or benign with the potential for expanded use across all cancers.

In the Nov. 21 issue of the Archives of Dermatology, the researchers say the new test, which relies on the soluble adenylyl cyclase (sAC) expression pattern, provides objective results — if sAC is present in the nucleus of cells from a skin biopsy then, melanoma is present. If the nucleus is not positive, the sample is benign. Most diagnostic stains in use today highlight a specific cell in the biopsy; where the stain is more intense, it is more likely it is to be melanoma. However, how “intense” something stains is a subjective measurement.

“The sAC stain is either positive or negative in the cell’s nucleus. Other stains require an interpretation of staining intensity, which means that a diagnosis of melanoma can rest on a pathologist’s opinion,” says senior author Dr. Jonathan Zippin, an assistant professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College. “As a clinical dermatologist, this uncertainty is difficult to deal with,” continues Dr. Zippin, who sees patients at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “No one wants to miss a true diagnosis of melanoma, but telling someone they have melanoma, when they may not, changes his or her life.”

Diagnosing melanoma in a patient means that the skin lesion, and an area of healthy tissue around it, must be removed — surgery that can be disfiguring. Additionally, patients diagnosed with melanoma now have the added worry that they may develop another cancer, Dr. Zippin says, since patients diagnosed with a melanoma are at a higher risk for developing another cancer.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Cynthia Magro, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and a pathologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, suggests that the sAC stain should be used in conjunction with other diagnostic tests, such as light microscopy and the other three stains now available. “What I hope is that five years down the line, this and other stains will help pathologists remove any uncertainty as to whether a biopsy is worrisome,” says Dr. Zippin. Dr. Magro says, however, that sAC provides one benefit that no other stain does.

“The greatest practical application of sAC is using it to determine the cancer-free margins of a lentigo maligna that needs to be removed,” she says. “This is a common melanoma in situ, usually found on the face, that does not show invasive growth. But until the development of sAC, it was very difficult to tell where the cancerous lesion ended.” The sAC stain, which she uses on many patients, “is vastly superior to any other test we have now to determine margins.

” The new stain is a monoclonal antibody that binds to sAC, which is a signaling molecule, says Dr. Zippin, who has long researched the molecule. “sAC senses changes in the interior of cells, such as pH and metabolism, and responds by regulating gene expression, metabolism and growth,” he says.

Dr. Lonny Levin and Dr. Jochen Buck, both professors of pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medical College, discovered the sAC protein and developed the antibody that Dr. Zippin and Dr. Margo used to develop the diagnostic test. Based on the promise of this research, the four doctors created a company called Cutting Edge Pattern Biotech to share the antibody with the scientific community. Currently, they are scientific advisers to the company and have no fiscal role. “Because the sAC protein is expressed in all tissues of the body, and appears to be linked to processes important for the development of cancer, we predict this immunostain will be useful for the diagnosis of many other cancers and diseases,” Dr. Zippin says.

While a diagnostic stain does not need FDA approval, the researchers say Cutting Edge Pattern Biotech is planning on seeking federal approval of the sAC antibody as a diagnostic test.

Co-authors of the study include Dr. A. Neil Crowson of the University of Oklahoma and St. John Medical Center and Regional Medical Laboratory — both in Tulsa, Okla.; and Dr. Garrett Desman of the Laboratory of Dermatopathology in Port Washington, N.Y.

  1. Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: