5-S-Cysteinyldopa (5-S-CD) has been used as a biochemical marker of melanoma progression. In this study, we measured serum levels of 5-S-CD in 2648 samples taken from 218 patients in order to evaluate the usefulness of this parameter in following melanoma progression and prognosis. 5-S-CD levels were significantly elevated above the upper limit of the normal range (10 nmol/l) in stage IV melanoma patients. The sensitivity of elevated serum 5-S-CD levels in detecting distant metastasis was 73%, while the specificity was 98% and the positive predictive value 94%. The sensitivity was improved to 77% when cases of amelanotic melanoma were excluded. Patients without metastases had elevated 5-S-CD values in 5% of the 1480 serum samples. Changes in serum 5-S-CD levels were followed during disease progression until the end stage in 49 patients. In 33% of the patients, elevation of serum 5-S-CD levels preceded clinical detection of visceral metastases, and in 37% elevation of 5-S-CD levels occurred at the same time as visceral metastasis. Patients with elevated 5-S-CD levels before or after surgical treatment had significantly shorter survival times than those with normal levels. These results show that the level of 5-S-CD in the serum is a sensitive and specific marker in predicting distant metastases. Elevated serum levels of 5-S-CD, before or after surgical treatment, is associated with a poor prognosis.
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