(Black) Skin cancer is a malignant tumor of the pigment cells of the skin. Each year, about 10,500 men and women in Germany are diagnosed with tumors of this type. There are other types of melanoma which may affect mucous membranes, the inner organs, the central nervous system or the eye.

There are exterior (exogenous) and interior (endogenous) risk factors which increase the chances of the disease occurring. The greatest exogenous risk factor is overexposure to UV-radiation. Skin type, having lots of birth marks or moles, as well as any genetic predisposition all count amongst endogenous factors. Patients at high risk should have their birth marks/moles (nevi) regularly examined by a dermatologist.

Melanoma is the most frequently fatal skin disease, with numbers of new cases growing fast across the globe.

maintrac® for malignant melanoma

The treatment of malignant melanoma depends on the stage of the disease, with the most important therapy in all stages of the disease being surgery. If a melanoma is discovered early, it can be easily removed from the skin, ensuring for a sufficiently large buffer zone of healthy skin around it. With deeper-rooted cancer, nearby lymph nodes may also be removed.

Particularly in the case of skin cancer patients in stage II and III of the disease, not yet having formed metastases, an additional long-term treatment with interferon is recommended. Interferon-α is an important messenger substance of the immune system and should help support the body by stimulating the body's own defences as part of an adjuvant therapy. Through this messenger substance, white blood cells (leukocytes) are animated to recognize and destroy foreign as well as degenerated cells. In principle, the course of treatment can be assessed on basis of the circulating tumor cells.

Due to the highly aggressive nature of melanoma, the disease tends to release tumor cells into the blood, which circulate there and may lead to the formation of metastases in other parts of the body. With monitoring using maintrac®, the activity of these cells can be determined. Treatment of skin cancer with distant metastases can involve either radiotherapy or systemic chemotherapy.

When faced with a cancer of unknown origin, identification of characteristics of the tumor cells circulating in the blood can give an indication from which organ of origin these cells come from.

  • Melan A (Mart-1), which can usually be found on circulating tumor cells in the case of malignant melanoma, is the abbreviated form of “melanocyte antigen". This is a typical protein associated with melanoma. An immunocytochemical process is used to detect Melan A on the circulating tumor cells and is primarily used for categorization of melanoma cells.