Acral melanoma is a rare type of melanoma that affects world populations irrespective of skin color and has worse survival than other cutaneous melanomas. It has relatively few single nucleotide mutations without the UV signature of cutaneous melanomas, but instead has a genetic landscape characterized by structural rearrangements and amplifications. BRAF mutations are less common than in other cutaneous melanomas, and knowledge about alternative therapeutic targets is incomplete.
To identify alternative therapeutic targets, we performed targeted deep-sequencing on 122 acral melanomas. We confirmed the loss of the tumor suppressors p16 and NF1 by immunohistochemistry in select cases.
In addition to BRAF (21.3%), NRAS (27.9%) and KIT (11.5%) mutations, we identified a broad array of MAPK pathway activating alterations, including fusions of BRAF (2.5%), NTRK3 (2.5%), ALK (0.8%) and PRKCA (0.8%), which can be targeted by available inhibitors. Inactivation of NF1 occurred in 18 cases (14.8%). Inactivation of the NF1 cooperating factor SPRED1 occurred in 8 cases (6.6%) as an alternative mechanism of disrupting the negative regulation of RAS. Amplifications recurrently affected narrow loci containing PAK1 and GAB2 (n = 27, 22.1%), CDK4 (n = 27, 22.1%), CCND1 (n = 24, 19.7%), EP300 (n = 20, 16.4%), YAP1 (n = 15, 12.3%), MDM2 (n = 13, 10.7%), and TERT (n = 13, 10.7%) providing additional and possibly complementary therapeutic targets. Acral melanomas with BRAFV600E mutations harbored fewer genomic amplifications and were more common in patients with European ancestry.
Our findings support a new, molecularly-based subclassification of acral melanoma with potential therapeutic implications: BRAFV600E mutant acral melanomas with characteristics similar to non-acral melanomas that could benefit from BRAF inhibitor therapy, and non-BRAFV600E mutant acral melanomas. Acral melanomas without BRAFV600E mutations harbor a broad array of therapeutically relevant alterations. Expanded molecular profiling would increase the detection of potentially targetable alterations for this subtype of acral melanoma.