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A Proposal for Improving Multicolor FISH Sensitivity in the Diagnosis of Malignant Melanoma Using New Combined Criteria

Kerl, Katrin MD*; Palmedo, Gabriele PhD; Wiesner, Thomas MD; Mentzel, Thomas MD; Rütten, Arno MD; Schärer, Leo MD; Paredes, Bruno MD; Hantschke, Markus MD; Kutzner, Heinz MD

The American Journal of Dermatopathology: August 2012 - Volume 34 - Issue 6 - p 580–585
doi: 10.1097/DAD.0b013e3182433f3a
Original Study

Abstract: Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) for the diagnosis of melanoma makes use of specific fluorescent probes to detect selected chromosomal alterations on paraffin-embedded tissue samples. To date, interpretation of FISH data has been based on numerical values generated by 2 different computational algorithms that of Abbott and that of Gerami. To further evaluate the value of FISH in the diagnosis of malignant melanoma, we selected 163 clinically and histologically unequivocal cases of malignant melanoma in a cohort of 575 melanocytic tumors and analyzed FISH data using the criteria of Abbott, Gerami, and new combined criteria. Depending on the used criteria, FISH was positive in the unequivocal malignant melanoma in 69.3% (113/163) of cases using the Abbott criteria, 74.2% (121/163) of cases using the Gerami criteria, and 82.2% (134/163) of cases using the combined criteria of Abbott and Gerami. Although use of all 3 criteria was associated with 100% FISH negativity in a cohort of 30 unequivocal benign melanocytic nevi, use of the combined criteria revealed more FISH-positive cases in ambiguous benign melanocytic lesions than the criteria of Abbott or Gerami alone: Abbott, 125 of 367; Gerami, 146 of 367; combined, 161 of 367. Furthermore, we show that 66% (8/12) of FISH-negative cases of unequivocal melanoma are positive when analyzed by array comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH), demonstrating that false-negative results remain despite the usage of the combined criteria for evaluation of FISH data. In these 8 FISH-negative aCGH-positive cases, copy number alterations were often located on chromosomes 9p, a chromosomal locus that is not targeted by the FISH probes currently used. In conclusion, the existing criteria for the evaluation of multicolor melanocytic FISH are limited by a nonnegligeable rate of false negativity that can be reduced by using newly proposed combined criteria but at the cost of increased detection of FISH positivity in ambiguous benign melanocytic lesions.

*Department of Dermatology, Zürich University Hospital, Zürich, Switzerland

Dermatopathologie Friedrichshafen, Friedrichshafen, Germany

Department of Dermatology, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria.

Dr Kutzner has served as a consultant to Abbott and has received honoraria for this.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Katrin Kerl, MD, Department of Dermatology, Zürich University Hospital, Gloriastrasse 31, Zürich 8091, Switzerland (e-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.