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Melanoma patients with higher levels of a protein called S-100 in their blood may run a higher risk of having the potentially deadly skin cancer return, a new study says.
The study tested serum samples from 103 patients who were treated with high-dose interferon, a standard therapy for melanoma; the patients had been treated eight years earlier, on average. The disease recurred in 64 of the patients within an average of 30 months. When the researchers examined levels of S-100 in the serum samples, they found that the higher the level of the protein, the greater likelihood the patient's disease had returned.
"Melanoma patients who initially respond well to treatment with interferon are at high risk of their cancer recurring," said Dr. John Kirkwood, principal investigator of the study and a professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director of the school's Melanoma Center. "We know that only 30 percent of these patients benefit from treatment long-term. The goal of our study was to identify better predictors of who will benefit most from treatment with interferon and who is most at risk of their cancer returning."
The study also found that patients who survived longer showed increased evidence of an autoimmune response to treatment with interferon.
The study findings were to be presented Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, in Chicago.