Abstract

Age is an important factor for determining the outcome of melanoma patients. Sentinel lymph node (SLN) status is also a strong predictor of survival for melanoma. Paradoxically, older melanoma patients have a lower incidence of SLN metastasis but a higher mortality rate when compared with their younger counterparts. The mechanisms that underlie this phenomenon remain unknown. This study uses three independent datasets of RNA samples from patients with melanoma metastatic to the SLN to identify age-related transcriptome changes in SLNs and their association with outcome. Microarray was applied to the first dataset of 97 melanoma patients. NanoString was performed in the second dataset to identify the specific immune genes and pathways that are associated with recurrence in younger versus older patients. qRT-PCR analysis was used in the third dataset of 36 samples to validate the differentially expressed genes (DEGs) from microarray and NanoString. These analyses show that FOS, NR4A, and ITGB1 genes were significantly higher in older melanoma patients with positive SLNs. IRAK3- and Wnt10b-related genes are the major pathways associated with recurrent melanoma in younger and older patients with tumor-positive SLNs, respectively. This study aims to elucidate age-related differences in SLNs in the presence of nodal metastasis.