Malignant melanoma is a neuroendocrine tumor that contains somatostatin receptors (SSTRs). Adjuvant therapy for melanoma is limited. Because melanomas arise from neural crest cells, we sought to evaluate the distribution of SSTR subtypes found in these tumors and their functional significance by imaging with 111In-pentetreotide scintigraphy (OctreoScan). Octreotide binds with greatest affinity to SSTR2 and SSTR5. Studying the expression of SSTRs in melanoma may demonstrate a potential role for octreotide in the treatment of melanoma. A series of 23 melanomas from 17 patients who underwent resection of regional or distant metastases were evaluated for the presence of SSTRs by the reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) using primers specific for SSTR1 through SSTR5. Identity of RT-PCR products was confirmed by Southern blot analysis. Sixteen patients underwent preoperative OctreoScan. SSTR1 was expressed in 96% of tumors, SSTR2 in 83%, SSTR3 in 61%, SSTR4 in 57%, and SSTR5 in 9%. OctreoScan imaged 63% of tumors. There was no correlation between SSTR subtype expression and OctreoScan result. Most of the melanomas expressed mRNA for SSTR1 and SSTR2, with approximately half expressing SSTR3 and SSTR4. The SSTR mRNA for SSTR2 appears to be transcribed into functional protein that binds 111In-pentetreotide in more than half of these patients. Although OctreoScan has limited sensitivity for localizing melanomas, tumors that can be imaged by OctreoScan may be amenable to adjuvant therapy with octreotide or targeted therapy with high-energy radioisotope-labeled octreotide. These studies clearly define melanoma as a neuroendocrine tumor, which may open new avenues for tumor control.
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