BACKGROUND: In patients with melanoma, early dissemination via lymphatic and hematogenous routes is frequently seen. Thus, besides clinical follow-up examination and imaging, reliable melanoma-specific serological tumor markers are needed.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: We retrospectively compared two serum markers for melanoma, S100 and melanoma-inhibitory activity (MIA), for monitoring of patients with metastatic melanoma under either adjuvant or therapeutic vaccination immunotherapy with dendritic cells (DC). Serum was obtained from a total of 100 patients (28 patients in stage III and 72 patients in stage IV, according to the American Joint Committee on Cancer 2002) at regular intervals during therapy, accompanied by follow-up imaging.
RESULTS: When relapse was detected, both markers often remained within normal range. In contrast, in patients with metastatic measurable disease receiving therapeutic and not adjuvant DC vaccination, an increase of both markers was a strong indicator for disease progression. When comparing both markers in the whole study population, MIA showed a superior sensitivity to detect disease progression.
CONCLUSION: S100 and MIA are highly sensitive tumor markers for monitoring of patients with melanoma with current metastases, but less sensitive for monitoring of tumor-free patients. In the current study, MIA had a slightly superior sensitivity to detect progressive disease compared to S100 and seems to be more useful in monitoring of patients with metastatic melanoma receiving immunotherapy.