BACKGROUND - TA-90 is a tumor-associated antigen first identified in the urine and sera of patients with metastatic melanoma. In the early stages of disease, TA-90 is present in circulating immune complexes (ICs) that may be detected with an antigen specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). In this study, the authors evaluated the efficacy of the TA-90 IC assay in detecting subclinical metastasis of early stage melanoma and predicting the survival of patients with this disease.
METHODS - Archival sera were collected preoperatively from 114 patients who underwent wide excision with or without regional lymphadenectomy in the treatment of clinical Stage I melanoma. Sera were analyzed for TA-90 IC in a blinded fashion, and results were correlated with the patient's clinical course as determined by database and chart review. Subclinical metastases were considered present at the time of surgery if the lymphadenectomy specimen was pathologically positive and/or the patient subsequently developed recurrence.
RESULTS - The TA-90 IC assay predicted subclinical metastasis in 43 of 56 patients (P < 0.0001), with 14 false-positive and 13 false-negative results. Sensitivity and specificity for the detection of occult metastasis were 77% and 76%, respectively. Positive and negative predictive values were 75% and 77%, respectively. Fifteen of 18 tumor positive regional lymph node basins (83%) and 34 of 46 recurrences (74%) were accurately predicted when considered independently (P < 0.004). Preoperative TA-90 IC status was also highly correlated with survival: 5-year overall and disease free survival rates were 63% and 46%, respectively, for the TA-90 IC positive group, compared with 88% and 82%, respectively, for the TA-90 IC negative group (P=0.0001). A multivariate analysis with standard prognostic variables identified preoperative TA-90 IC status as a strong, independent prognostic factor for both overall and disease free survival.
CONCLUSIONS - To the authors' knowledge, TA-90 is the first tumor marker that accurately predicts subclinical metastatic disease and survival for patients with early stage melanoma. For this reason, the TA-90 IC assay has the potential to improve dramatically the prognostic evaluation of patients with this disease. Its role in postoperative risk stratification and early detection of recurrence is being evaluated in a prospective study.