Catching melanoma before it kills

A melanoma awareness ribbon.

Nov 21, 2016

Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the U.S. and, of all skin cancers, melanoma claims the lives of the most patients. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 1982 and 2011, melanoma cases in the U.S. doubled. Quickly and accurately distinguishing between benign and malignant tumors is key to saving patients’ lives. A Delaware Valley University faculty member is working on improving the process for accurately diagnosing melanoma in ambiguous tumors.

Improving accuracy of a diagnosis in difficult to diagnose tumors would help patients with benign tumors avoid unnecessary psychological distress and treatment. It would also help make sure that more malignant tumors are found.  

Dr. Sankhiros Babapoor, an assistant professor at DelVal, coauthored research on distinguishing more accurately between benign and malignant tumors by using a supplemental test. The research, “microRNA in situ hybridization for miR-211 detection as an ancillary text in melanoma diagnosis,” was featured on the May 2016 cover of Modern Pathology, the official journal of the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology.

He worked with a team including researchers from the University of Connecticut Health Center, the Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science and Affymetrix, a company based in Santa Clara, California. 

The team included: Dr. Michael Horwich, Dr. Rong Wu, Shauna Levinson, Dr. Manoj Gandhi, Dr. Hanspaul Makkar, Dr. Arni Kristjansson, Dr. Mary Chang and Dr. Soheil S. Dadras.

The study included patients with tumors that are ambiguous or, particularly challenging to diagnose as malignant or benign. The team looked at miR-211, a small noncoding RNA. Expression of miR-211 was significantly lower in malignant tumors compared to benign growths. The researchers correctly classified 92 percent of the 88 cases as malignant or benign by using microRNA in situ hybridization for miR-211 detection as a supplemental test. The test does not work 100 percent of the time and is still being researched, but the study helps with understanding how to improve the process of diagnosing ambiguous tumors.