Neoplastic progression and prognosis in melanoma
Most melanomas evolve through an initial stage known as radial growth phase (RGP), encompassing in situ and microinvasive malignancies in which the probability of cure approaches 100%. At the present time, despite a shift toward earlier recognition of melanoma, by the time of diagnosis roughly 70% of melanomas have evolved to a point, known as vertical growth phase (VGP) or tumorigenic melanoma, at which cure is not certain, and prognosis depends upon certain attributes of the neoplasm and the host. Attempts have been made to assemble these attributes into prognostic models to permit estimation of the probability of cure for individuals and for groups of patients. Attributes that have been identified as independent prognostic variables include thickness of the primary neoplasm, the numbers of mitotic figures, and the presence of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL). Other biologically important prognostic variables are on the horizon, and some will likely be based on molecules (markers) expressed on neoplastic cells that show functional significance in mechanisms of metastasis.