Dr. Harriet Kluger, an associate professor of medical oncology at the Yale School of Medicine, published a study in the April 15 issue of the journal Clinical Cancer Medicine titled “Plasma Markers for Identifying Patients with Metastatic Melanoma.” A member of the Yale Cancer Center Melanoma Program, Kluger received the 2002 Donaghue Foundation Award for Women’s Health Research, the 2002 Swebilius Award for Translational Research and the 2003 Susan Komen Foundation Award for Basic, Clinical and Translational Research. She spoke with the News Thursday about her results and future steps the medical community can make to monitor recurrence of melanoma.

Q What was the purpose of this study?

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A The purpose of this study was to see if certain protein biomarkers were found in the tumor of patients with metastatic melanoma. We identified proteins secreted in the plasma of the blood.

Q How did you determine which proteins to measure?

A We studied proteins known to be associated with melanoma and other cancers. We took gene expression analyses of tumors and identified genes known to be abundantly expressed in melanoma cells that would encode for proteins expressed in the blood of patients with this disease.

Q Who were the subjects of your study?

A From 2008-’09, we drew blood from Yale patients. The patients were matched for age and gender and split into equal-sized training and test groups.

Q What were the results?

A We found seven proteins with high expression in some of the subjects with metastatic melanoma. We then built a more comprehensive model with a subset of three proteins in combination and found that together the markers were more predictive than single markers of metastatic melanoma.

Q What are then next steps for your research?

A The next step is to validate these biomarkers by using blood of patients with early-stage disease over time under surveillance for metastatic recurrence. We need to develop a clinical test to validate biomarkers in the setting of patients who are being monitored.

Q What is the rate of recurrence for patients with early-stage disease?

A The rate of recurrence ranges from 10 to 70 percent, depending on depth, lymph node involvement and other pathologic criteria.