Dissection of immune gene networks in primary melanoma tumors critical for antitumor surveillance of patients with stage II-III resectable disease
Gene Regulatory Networks
Patients with resected stage II-III cutaneous melanomas remain at high risk for metastasis and death. Biomarker development has been limited by the challenge of isolating high-quality RNA for transcriptome-wide profiling from formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded (FFPE) primary tumor specimens. Using NanoString technology, RNA from 40 stage II-III FFPE primary melanomas was analyzed and a 53-immune-gene panel predictive of non-progression (area under the curve (AUC)=0.920) was defined. The signature predicted disease-specific survival (DSS P<0.001) and recurrence-free survival (RFS P<0.001). CD2, the most differentially expressed gene in the training set, also predicted non-progression (P<0.001). Using publicly available microarray data from 46 primary human melanomas (GSE15605), a coexpression module enriched for the 53-gene panel was then identified using unbiased methods. A Bayesian network of signaling pathways based on this data identified driver genes. Finally, the proposed 53-gene panel was confirmed in an independent test population of 48 patients (AUC=0.787). The gene signature was an independent predictor of non-progression (P<0.001), RFS (P<0.001), and DSS (P=0.024) in the test population. The identified driver genes are potential therapeutic targets, and the 53-gene panel should be tested for clinical application using a larger data set annotated on the basis of prospectively gathered data.