Identifying Metastatic Risk of Melanoma Skin Cancer

January 1, 2021

Melanoma is a dangerous type of skin cancer that can spread quickly (metastasize) through the body. Early detection and appropriately responsive treatment are critical for addressing melanoma. Here at Kirsch Dermatology, melanoma skin cancer screening is taken very seriously, and we take immediate steps to treat patients diagnosed with melanoma. 

In addition to resolving your immediate health needs, we care about helping you live a long and healthy life. Due to the deadly potential of melanoma, Dr. Kirsch takes a highly proactive approach in addressing each individual’s case moving forward. For every melanoma case with a Breslow depth greater than 0.3 mm, Dr. Kirsch sends the melanoma for special genetic testing. This test helps identify whether you might be at greater risk of developing serious or life-threatening recurrence and helps to inform the most appropriate management plan for each patient. 

The DecisionDx™-Melanoma Test

Understanding Melanoma Staging and Prognoses

Whenever an individual is diagnosed with melanoma, their dermatologist conducts traditional staging to identify their prognosis. Staging determines how far the cancer has spread; the lower the number, the better. Stage I and Stage II melanoma have not spread very far and typically have a high survival rate, so patients with Stage I or II skin cancer are given recommended treatment based on their age, health, and other relevant factors. Once the melanoma is eliminated, they go on with their lives. These patients usually receive routine clinical skin and lymph node exams, but they do not receive increased surveillance or the more aggressive treatments that are given to patients with higher risk.

Traditional staging has saved many lives in the past and continues to save lives today. However, the staging process misses many patients whose melanoma may be early stage now, but who could in the future develop metastatic disease. An alarming percentage of stage I and stage II melanoma cancers can aggressively return and even prove fatal within just 5 years. Many patients who are inaccurately identified as low risk of metastasis will later lose their lives due to the inadequacies of traditional staging.

Predicting Metastatic Risk More Accurately with Gene Testing

The DecisionDx™-Melanoma test is a highly accurate predictor of individual metastatic risk in Stage I and Stage II patients. It improves on the accuracy of traditional prognostic staging by using a gene expression profile test. This special testing evaluates biological information from 31 genes found in the cancerous tissue. Using these biological markers, the DecisionDx™-Melanoma test can more accurately identify high risk Stage I and Stage II melanoma patients. 

The DecisionDx™-Melanoma test helps dermatologists and patients make more informed decisions in their melanoma treatment. Patients who are identified as high risk become candidates for more active systemic surveillance that they otherwise would not receive. They may be referred to medical oncology, brain or lung scans, or considered for clinical trials, systemic drug therapy, or other adjuvant therapy options. More aggressive monitoring and treatment typically not given to Stage I and Stage II melanoma patients can save even more lives long term. 

Kirsch Dermatology is one of only a few dermatology practices that offers this special testing for patients diagnosed with melanoma. Dr. Kirsch sends every melanoma with Breslow depth greater than 0.3 mm for the DecisionDx™-Melanoma test so that his patients are given the most accurate prognosis possible. The proactive testing here at Kirsch Dermatology ensures that melanoma skin cancer patients have all the information, treatment, and testing they need to give themselves the best possible chance of a long, cancer-free life. Contact Kirsch Dermatology to learn more.