Specialized Testing May Boost Melanoma Treatment

Genetic and molecular specialized testing may improve targeted therapy for skin cancer.

Genetic and molecular specialized testing can help dermatologists provide treatment and give individualized care and diagnoses for patients with melanoma.

“Today we have more tools than ever to diagnose and treat melanoma,” said assistant professor of Dermatology, Emily Y. Chu, MD, PhD, FAAD. “These resources enable dermatologists to provide the best possible care for our patients.”

Although the most common form of diagnosis for skin cancer is via tissue biopsy, these tests can have ambiguous results.

In these cases, doctors can use additional tests to determine if a lesion is malignant. Furthermore, doctors can use the testing to help identify the best treatment options for patients with advanced stage melanoma.

The tests can include comparative genomic hybridization or fluorescent in situ hybridization, which allows doctors to compare DNA in tumor cells with normal tissue to look for signs of melanoma.

Gene expression profiling can also be used to gather additional information by screening tissue for genes associated with cancer. Profiling also offers the potential to help determine whether a lesion is malignant.

For patients suffering from advanced stage melanoma, doctors could use next generation sequencing testing, which looks for specific mutations in melanoma to help select a targeted therapy.

“Although genetic and molecular testing for melanoma has advanced in recent years, it's still an emerging field,” Chu said. “I think it will only get better.”

Genetic and molecular testing can be beneficial in estimating the likelihood of developing certain diseases, which includes skin cancer. However, this testing is still in the early stages of development and are not necessarily reliable.

“Only a doctor can evaluate your melanoma risk or diagnose a suspicious lesion,” Chu said.

Furthermore, these tests should be used in conjunction with other diagnostic data, the researchers noted.

“Test results are just another piece of information, but in certain melanoma cases, even a little bit of additional information can be helpful to a dermatologist in providing individualized care for each patient,” Chu said. “Genetic and molecular tests are a valuable tool in our arsenal for fighting melanoma. When used appropriately, these tests can provide dermatologists with important information to assist them in melanoma diagnosis and treatment, allowing them to provide patients with the best possible care.”