Interobserver agreement in the histopathological classification of desmoplastic melanomas

Lezcano C, Berwick  M, Luo L, Barnhill R, Duncan LM, Gerami P, Lowe L, Messina JL, Scolyer RA, Wood B, Yeh I, Zembovicz A, Busam KJ. Pathology, 2023, ISSN 0031-3025.


Desmoplastic melanoma is a subtype of melanoma characterised by amelanotic fusiform melanocytes dispersed in a collagenous stroma. Cell-poor and fibrous stroma-rich ‘pure’ variants have been distinguished from ‘mixed’ variants with areas of higher cell density and/or less desmoplastic stroma. This distinction is relevant because patients whose tumours display a pure phenotype have a lower risk for regional lymph node metastasis and distant recurrence. However, little is known about interobserver agreement among pathologists in the subclassification of desmoplastic melanoma. To address this issue, we conducted a study in which eleven dermatopathologists independently evaluated whole slide scanned images of excisions from 30 desmoplastic melanomas. The participating pathologists were asked to classify the tumours as pure or mixed. They were also asked to record the presence or absence of neurotropism and angiotropism. We found substantial interobserver agreement between the 11 dermatopathologists in the classification of tumours as pure versus mixed desmoplastic melanoma (kappa=0.64; p<0.0001). There was fair agreement between the 11 dermatopathologists in the evaluation of presence versus absence of neurotropism (kappa=0.26; p<0.0001), and slight agreement in the assessment of angiotropism (kappa=0.13; p<0.0001). The level of concordance in the subclassification of desmoplastic melanomas is encouraging for the acceptance of this prognostic parameter in the real-world practice of melanoma pathology.