Interleukin-12 indicates survival prospects for melanoma patients

Apr 16, 2008

Higher blood levels of an immune system protein predict poor survival prospects for melanoma patients with advanced disease, researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center report today at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Their finding that elevated levels of interleukin-12 (IL-12) are a marker of poor prognosis also points to a molecular explanation for a long-known risk factor for melanoma patients - older age.

Among 150 patients with Stage III melanoma, the study found that the highest levels of IL-12 are associated with a nearly 5-fold risk of death. Although older stage III patients also had an elevated risk of death, age was not a prognostic factor independent of IL-12.

"Melanoma in some cases can be vulnerable to attack by a patient's immune system," said senior researcher Jeffrey Lee, M. D., professor in M. D. Anderson's Department of Surgical Oncology. "What we've found could be evidence of a dysfunctional immune response that actually fuels the growth of melanoma."

Blood-born IL-12 provides both an accessible prognostic marker and a key connection to other signaling proteins; IL-12 as well as these related proteins already have been targeted by antibody therapies in certain autoimmune disorders, Lee said.

The research team examined age, stage of disease, and IL-12 levels in 658 melanoma patients - 445 with stage I or II disease, 150 with stage 3 and 63 at stage IV.

"First, we found that IL-12 levels increase with age," says first author and study presenter Yun Shin Chun, M.D. The mean levels of the protein increased at every age level above age 40. (See Chart)

Age, disease stage and IL-12 levels were then analyzed separately as prognostic factors. Increases in all three were associated with poor overall survival.

"When we analyzed these three factors together, only stage of disease and IL-12 levels were independent predictors of overall survival," Chun said. Age dropped completely out of the picture. Stage of disease was the most powerful prognostic factor.

Both IL-12 and IL-23 are cytokines, proteins that tell cells and other proteins what to do. Cytokines like IL-12 and IL-23 are particularly vital to immune system function. The general level of a person's immune function declines with age, Lee said, as do the levels of most cytokines. The rise of IL-12p40 with age is a relative anomaly.

Chun, Lee and colleagues are investigating IL-12's connection to the tumor promoting IL-23 and about 30 other cytokines in high-risk melanoma patients. Some of the suspect cytokines, including IL-12 and IL-23, already are targeted by therapies used autoimmune disease, Lee noted.

Source: University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

Explore further: Team identifies source of most cases of invasive bladder cancer

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Cancer stem cells linked to drug resistance

17 hours ago

Most drugs used to treat lung, breast and pancreatic cancers also promote drug-resistance and ultimately spur tumor growth. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered ...

Unraveling the 'black ribbon' around lung cancer

Apr 17, 2014

It's not uncommon these days to find a colored ribbon representing a disease. A pink ribbon is well known to signify breast cancer. But what color ribbon does one think of with lung cancer?

User comments : 0

More news stories

Finnish inventor rethinks design of the axe

(Phys.org) —Finnish inventor Heikki Kärnä is the man behind the Vipukirves Leveraxe, which is a precision tool for splitting firewood. He designed the tool to make the job easier and more efficient, with ...

Poll: Big Bang a big question for most Americans

Few Americans question that smoking causes cancer. But they have more skepticism than confidence in global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and have the most trouble believing a Big Bang created the universe 13.8 ...