American Journal of Pathology vol:149 issue:6 pages:1953-1961
CD40 is a receptor at the surface of B lymphocytes with important functions in the immune response. CD40 has also been found on a variety of carcinoma and melanoma cell lines where it has been suggested to serve as a possible receptor for mitogenic signals. We studied the expression and distribution of CD40 in paraffin sections of 71 uniformly treated malignant melanomas (MMs) with a long clinical follow-up using well known monoclonal antibodies. For comparison, 71 benign nevi were also studied. Common acquired nevi occasionally expressed CD40 in nests or single cells at the dermo-epidermal junction; no immunoreactivity was observed in the dermal part of acquired nevi, and all Spitz' nevi were entirely negative. One-third of large congenital nevi expressed CD40 in small clusters of heavily pigmented, epithelioid cells, corresponding to so-called proliferative nodules. In 41 of 71 MMs, CD40 was expressed in single or clustered neoplastic melanocytes; 9 cases showed CD40 expression only in the radial growth phase, and in 32 cases, the vertical growth phase showed CD40 expression. The same staining pattern was obtained with other anti-CD40 monoclonal antibodies, directed to different epitopes of the CD40 molecule. In 29 of 32 MMs showing CD40 in the vertical growth phase, expression of the CD40 ligand (CD40L) was studied; in 13 of these 29, CD40L was found in the same tumor areas that expressed CD40. Analysis of 28 metastases from 24 MM patients showed in the majority of cases a similar, scattered or nodular staining pattern as observed in the primary tumor. Patients expressing CD40 in the vertical growth phase of their MM did not differ significantly from CD40-negative patients with respect to any of the known prognostic parameters but showed a significantly shorter tumor-free survival. Patients with CD40+ CD40L+ MM tended to have a shorter tumor-free survival than those lacking CD40L. We conclude that CD40 represents a novel prognostic parameter in primary cutaneous MM. The co-localization of CD40 and CD40L suggests an autocrine growth loop in the vertical growth phase of MM.