Investigating serum and tissue expression identified a cytokine/chemokine signature as a highly effective melanoma marker

Marco Cesati, Francesca Scatozza, Daniela D’arcangelo, Gian Carlo Antonini-Cappellini, Stefania Rossi, Claudio Tabolacci, Maurizio Nudo, Enzo Palese, Luigi Lembo, Giovanni Di Lella, Francesco Facchiano, Antonio Facchiano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The identification of reliable and quantitative melanoma biomarkers may help an early diagnosis and may directly affect melanoma mortality and morbidity. The aim of the present study was to identify effective biomarkers by investigating the expression of 27 cytokines/chemokines in melanoma compared to healthy controls, both in serum and in tissue samples. Serum samples were from 232 patients recruited at the IDI-IRCCS hospital. Expression was quantified by xMAP technology, on 27 cytokines/chemokines, compared to the control sera. RNA expression data of the same 27 molecules were obtained from 511 melanoma-and healthy-tissue samples, from the GENT2 database. Statistical analysis involved a 3-step approach: analysis of the single-molecules by Mann–Whitney analysis; analysis of paired-molecules by Pearson correlation; and profile analysis by the machine learning algorithm Support Vector Machine (SVM). Single-molecule analysis of serum expression identified IL-1b, IL-6, IP-10, PDGF-BB, and RANTES differently expressed in melanoma (p < 0.05). Expression of IL-8, GM-CSF, MCP-1, and TNF-α was found to be significantly correlated with Breslow thickness. Eotaxin and MCP-1 were found differentially expressed in male vs. female patients. Tissue expression analysis identified very effective marker/predictor genes, namely, IL-1Ra, IL-7, MIP-1a, and MIP-1b, with individual AUC values of 0.88, 0.86, 0.93, 0.87, respectively. SVM analysis of the tissue expression data identified the combination of these four molecules as the most effective signature to discriminate melanoma patients (AUC = 0.98). Validation, using the GEPIA2 database on an additional 1019 independent samples, fully confirmed these observations. The present study demonstrates, for the first time, that the IL-1Ra, IL-7, MIP-1a, and MIP-1b gene signature discriminates melanoma from control tissues with extremely high efficacy. We therefore propose this 4-molecule combination as an effective melanoma marker.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3680
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Cytokines
  • Machine learning
  • Melanoma markers
  • Principal component analysis
  • Support Vector Machine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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