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AACR: Interleukin-12 Predicts Melanoma Survival

Patients with high levels and advanced disease may have significantly increased risk of death

WEDNESDAY, April 16 (HealthDay News) -- In melanoma patients with advanced disease, a high blood level of the immune system protein interleukin-12 is associated with a poor prognosis, according to research presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in San Diego.

Yun Shin Chun, M.D., of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and colleagues studied 658 melanoma patients, including 445 with stage I or II disease, 150 with stage III disease and 63 with stage IV disease.

The researchers found that interleukin-12 levels steadily increased with age. For patients under age 40, mean levels were 75 picograms per milliliter compared to 112 picograms per milliliter in patients over age 80. They also found that the only independent predictors of overall survival were stage of disease and interleukin-12 levels, and ruled out age as a significant factor. In patients with stage III disease, they found a nearly fivefold increased risk of death in those with the highest interleukin-12 levels.

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

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