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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Microphthalmia transcription factor in the immunohistochemical diagnosis of metastatic melanoma: comparison with four other melanoma markers.

The diagnosis of metastatic malignant melanoma (MMM) may be difficult in surgical pathology, often complicated by the unpredictable spread of this tumor and its great variability on histologic evaluation. Traditionally used immunohistochemical markers on melanomas are insufficient because of either a relative lack of specificity ( S100 protein) or variably reported sensitivity (HMB45). Information about some newer markers, such as tyrosinase (TYR) and Melan A, is more limited. Recently, based on the study of a small number of tumors, it was suggested that microphthalmia transcription factor (MITF) is 100% sensitive in the identification of metastatic melanoma. In the current study, we compared the diagnostic usefulness of MITF with that of four other markers in 266 cases of conventional metastatic melanomas from different sites, 33 cases of desmoplastic melanomas, and 1 case of melanoma with rhabdoid features. The specificity of MITF was evaluated by using a representative sample of control tumors. Microphthalmia transcription factor with nuclear positivity was seen in 235 of 266 cases of conventional MMM (88%), usually in more than 30% of tumor cells. However, some melanomas had only foci of MITF- and TYR-positive cells, whereas the majority of cells were generally S100 protein-positive. Only 1 of 30 desmoplastic melanomas (3%) had MITF-positive cells, representing epithelioid foci resembling conventional melanoma. Two cases had TYR in a similar pattern; all were HMB45-negative. One metastatic melanoma with rhabdoid features was negative for MITF and other markers except the S100 protein. Half of the S100 protein negative conventional melanomas (6 of 12) were MITF-positive, whereas 4 of 20 (20%) TYR-negative tumors had reactivity for MITF. The percentages of positive cases of MMM (10% or more tumor cells positive) diagnosed with the four other markers in descending order were 90% ( S100 protein and TYR), 78% (melan-A), and 66% (HMB45). Microphthalmia transcription factor appeared to be specific, because significant reactivity was not found in 112 carcinomas, 20 lymphomas, 20 angiosarcomas, 20 fibrous histiocytomas, and 20 malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors. However, positive nuclei were found focally among reactive histiocytes, especially in osteoclasts, epithelioid histiocytes, and sporadic other histiocytes. Microphthalmia transcription factor may be a valuable addition to the marker panel used in diagnosing melanoma, in combination with S100, TYR, and the other markers, but it is not present in cases of desmoplastic melanomas.[1]


  1. Microphthalmia transcription factor in the immunohistochemical diagnosis of metastatic melanoma: comparison with four other melanoma markers. Miettinen, M., Fernandez, M., Franssila, K., Gatalica, Z., Lasota, J., Sarlomo-Rikala, M. Am. J. Surg. Pathol. (2001) [Pubmed]
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