PTEN and p16 frequently undergo (epi)genetic aberrations in melanoma resulting in decreased, or absent, protein levels. We investigated the prognostic significance of these tumor suppressor genes in melanoma brain metastases (MBMs). Immunohistochemical analysis was performed on archived tissue sections from craniotomies. Expression of PTEN and p16 was semiquantitatively scored (0-3 scale) in melanoma cells, glia, TILs, and endothelial cells of tumor-associated vessels and was compared among the different brain tumor cell compartments. Overall survival (OS) analysis was performed according to PTEN and p16 protein expression in melanoma cells. 58 patients (median age 56, 37 male) underwent craniotomy for MBMs before February 2014. The OS of patients with decreased, or absent, protein expression (0, 1+) of PTEN and p16 in melanoma cells was significantly shorter compared to that of patients with high (2+, 3+) expression (median OS 2.40 vs. 10.75 months and 4.1 vs. 8.1 months, respectively; Gehan-Breslow-Wilcoxon test P = 0.026 and P = 0.037, respectively). PTEN and p16 protein expression were significantly lower in TILs compared to melanoma cells (Mann-Whitney test P = 0.023 and P < 0.0001, respectively). Low/absent protein expression of PTEN/p16 is an adverse prognostic factor in MBMs. Surprisingly, expression of both PTEN and p16 proteins was significantly lower in TILs compared to melanoma cells. Proliferating (p16 absent/low) TILs within the brain with or without an active PI3K-Akt pathway (PTEN absent/low) may represent a favorable host response in MBMs. Thus, treatment of patients with MBMs with CDK4/6 or PI3K pathway inhibitors may result in an unfavorable, bystander, off-target effect on host immune response.
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