Expression of STAT1 and STAT2 in malignant melanoma does not correlate with response to interferon-alpha adjuvant therapy
Interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) is used as an adjuvant therapy in patients with malignant melanoma and who have undergone surgical resection of high-risk lesions. Defective expression or activation of STAT1 or STAT2 has been shown to correlate with IFN-alpha or resistance in vitro; however, recent data from our laboratory suggest that the anti-tumor effects of IFN-alpha are dependent on STAT1 signaling within host immune cells. We measured STAT1 and STAT2 expression in 28 melanoma biopsies (8 cutaneous lesions; 1 lung metastasis; 19 nodal metastases) obtained from patients prior to the initiation of adjuvant IFN-alpha therapy. Disease recurrence following IFN-alpha treatment did not correlate with the staining intensity of either STAT1 (P = 0.61) or STAT2 (P = 0.52). Tumors with minimal STAT1 or STAT2 expression (< 20% positive) were present in four patients with tumor-positive lymph nodes, who exhibited prolonged relapse-free survival (> 44 months) following adjuvant therapy. Conversely, high levels of STAT1 were present in a patient who recurred during the course of IFN-alpha therapy. A case study of one patient who experienced recurrent disease during IFN-alpha treatment revealed that STAT1 levels were greater in the recurrent tumor when compared to the original lesion. These studies provide direct evidence to suggest that levels of STAT1 and STAT2 within the tumor do not influence a patient's response to adjuvant IFN-alpha.