Open Access Open Badges Research

Whole genome methylation profiles as independent markers of survival in stage IIIC melanoma patients

Luca Sigalotti1*, Alessia Covre12, Elisabetta Fratta1, Giulia Parisi12, Paolo Sonego3, Francesca Colizzi1, Sandra Coral1, Samuele Massarut4, John M Kirkwood5 and Michele Maio12*

Author Affiliations

1 Cancer Bioimmunotherapy Unit, Centro di Riferimento Oncologico, Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico, Aviano, Italy

2 Division of Medical Oncology and Immunotherapy, Department of Oncology, University Hospital of Siena, Istituto Toscano Tumori, Siena, Italy

3 CBM scrl - Genomics, Area Science Park, Basovizza, Trieste, Italy

4 Breast Surgery Unit, Centro di Riferimento Oncologico, Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico, Aviano, Italy

5 University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

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Journal of Translational Medicine 2012, 10:185  doi:10.1186/1479-5876-10-185

Published: 5 September 2012



The clinical course of cutaneous melanoma (CM) can differ significantly for patients with identical stages of disease, defined clinico-pathologically, and no molecular markers differentiate patients with such a diverse prognosis. This study aimed to define the prognostic value of whole genome DNA methylation profiles in stage III CM.


Genome-wide methylation profiles were evaluated by the Illumina Human Methylation 27 BeadChip assay in short-term neoplastic cell cultures from 45 stage IIIC CM patients. Unsupervised K-means partitioning clustering was exploited to sort patients into 2 groups based on their methylation profiles. Methylation patterns related to the discovered groups were determined using the nearest shrunken centroid classification algorithm. The impact of genome-wide methylation patterns on overall survival (OS) was assessed using Cox regression and Kaplan-Meier analyses.


Unsupervised K-means partitioning by whole genome methylation profiles identified classes with significantly different OS in stage IIIC CM patients. Patients with a “favorable” methylation profile had increased OS (P = 0.001, log-rank = 10.2) by Kaplan-Meier analysis. Median OS of stage IIIC patients with a “favorable” vs. “unfavorable” methylation profile were 31.5 and 10.4 months, respectively. The 5 year OS for stage IIIC patients with a “favorable” methylation profile was 41.2% as compared to 0% for patients with an “unfavorable” methylation profile. Among the variables examined by multivariate Cox regression analysis, classification defined by methylation profile was the only predictor of OS (Hazard Ratio = 2.41, for “unfavorable” methylation profile; 95% Confidence Interval: 1.02-5.70; P = 0.045). A 17 gene methylation signature able to correctly assign prognosis (overall error rate = 0) in stage IIIC patients on the basis of distinct methylation-defined groups was also identified.


A discrete whole-genome methylation signature has been identified as molecular marker of prognosis for stage IIIC CM patients. Its use in daily practice is foreseeable, and promises to refine the comprehensive clinical management of stage III CM patients.

Whole-genome methylation profiling; Prognosis; Prognostic signature; Hypermethylation; Immunotherapy