The role of gene fusions in melanocytic neoplasms

Victor L. Quan, Elnaz Panah, Bin Zhang, Katherine Shi, Lauren S. Mohan, Pedram Gerami*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Recent advances in next generation sequencing (NGS) have allowed for efficient whole transcriptome sequencing, leading to the identification of important kinase fusions as the primary driver in some melanocytic neoplasms. These fusions typically occur mutually exclusively of one another and other well-known initiating mutations such as BRAF, NRAS, NF1, KIT, and GNAQ. Fusions are found in over 50% of Spitz neoplasms, including ALK, BRAF, NTRK1, NTRK3, ROS1, MET, MAP3K8, and RET. Familiarity with the typical morphologic features of certain fusion-driven melanocytic neoplasms can help with classification, diagnosis, and identification of targeted molecular therapies in malignant cases. Spitz tumors with ALK, NTRK1, and NTRK3 fusions have characteristic morphologic features. BRAF and MAP3K8 fusions, in particular, tend to be epithelioid, high grade, and more frequent in Spitz melanoma than other fusion subtypes. Sporadic cases of pigmented epithelioid melanocytoma may have PRKCA fusions and sheets of monomorphic epithelioid melanocytes. Fusion events are also enriched among melanomas without the key mutations BRAF, NRAS, or NF1. Although NGS is the most reliable method to detect fusions, immunohistochemistry and fluorescence in situ hybridization are cost-effective alternatives in some cases. We describe recent discoveries regarding the role of kinase fusions in melanocytic neoplasms and their associated morphologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)878-887
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of cutaneous pathology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • fusions
  • genomics
  • melanocytic lesions
  • melanoma
  • spitzoid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology
  • Dermatology


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