, Volume 57, Issue 9, pp 1315-1321
Date: 03 Apr 2008

Impact of IFNα2b upon pSTAT3 and the MEK/ERK MAPK Pathway in Melanoma

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High-dose IFNα2b (HDI) was established as the first effective adjuvant therapy for patients with high-risk resected melanoma more than a decade ago, but its fundamental molecular mechanism of action remains unclear. STAT3 and the mitogen activated protein kinases (MAPKs), especially ERK (extracellular signal-regulating kinase) and MEK (MAPK/ERK kinase), play roles in melanoma progression and host immunity. We have therefore evaluated STAT3 and MEK/ERK MAP kinases in patients with regional lymph node metastasis (stage IIIB) of melanoma in the context of a prospective neoadjuvant trial of HDI (UPCI 00-008).

Patients and methods

In the context of this trial, HDI was administered daily for 20 doses following diagnostic biopsy, and prior to definitive surgery. Immunohistochemistry for pSTAT3, phospho-MEK1/2, phospho-ERK1/2, and EGFR was performed on paired fixed (nine patients) biopsies.


HDI was found to down-regulate pSTAT3 (P = 0.008) and phospho-MEK1/2 (P = 0.008) levels significantly in tumor cells. Phospho-ERK1/2 was down-regulated by HDI in tumor cells (P = 0.015), but not in lymphoid cells. HDI down-regulated EGFR (P = 0.013), but pSTAT3 activation appeared not to be associated with EGFR expression and the MEK/ERK MAPK pathway.


We conclude that HDI regulates MAPK signaling differentially in melanoma tumor cells and host lymphoid cells in vivo. STAT3 activation is independent of the EGFR/MEK/ERK signaling pathway.