Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Comparison of high resolution melting analysis, pyrosequencing, next generation sequencing and immunohistochemistry to conventional Sanger sequencing for the detection of p.V600E and non-p.V600E BRAF mutations

Michaela Angelika Ihle1*, Jana Fassunke1, Katharina König1, Inga Grünewald14, Max Schlaak2, Nicole Kreuzberg2, Lothar Tietze3, Hans-Ulrich Schildhaus15, Reinhard Büttner1 and Sabine Merkelbach-Bruse1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Pathology, University of Cologne, Medical Centre, Cologne, Germany

2 Institute of Dermatology, University of Cologne, Medical Centre, Cologne, Germany

3 Institute of Pathology, Ortenau-Hospital Lahr-Ettenheim, Lahr-Ettenheim, Germany

4 Current address: Gerhard-Domagk-Institute of Pathology, University of Münster, Medical Centre, Münster, Germany

5 Current address: Institute of Pathology, University Medical Centre, Göttingen, Germany

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BMC Cancer 2014, 14:13  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-13

Published: 10 January 2014



The approval of vemurafenib in the US 2011 and in Europe 2012 improved the therapy of not resectable or metastatic melanoma. Patients carrying a substitution of valine to glutamic acid at codon 600 (p.V600E) or a substitution of valine to leucine (p.V600K) in BRAF show complete or partial response. Therefore, the precise identification of the underlying somatic mutations is essential. Herein, we evaluate the sensitivity, specificity and feasibility of six different methods for the detection of BRAF mutations.


Samples harboring p.V600E mutations as well as rare mutations in BRAF exon 15 were compared to wildtype samples. DNA was extracted from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues by manual micro-dissection and automated extraction. BRAF mutational analysis was carried out by high resolution melting (HRM) analysis, pyrosequencing, allele specific PCR, next generation sequencing (NGS) and immunohistochemistry (IHC). All mutations were independently reassessed by Sanger sequencing. Due to the limited tumor tissue available different numbers of samples were analyzed with each method (82, 72, 60, 72, 49 and 82 respectively).


There was no difference in sensitivity between the HRM analysis and Sanger sequencing (98%). All mutations down to 6.6% allele frequency could be detected with 100% specificity. In contrast, pyrosequencing detected 100% of the mutations down to 5% allele frequency but exhibited only 90% specificity. The allele specific PCR failed to detect 16.3% of the mutations eligible for therapy with vemurafenib. NGS could analyze 100% of the cases with 100% specificity but exhibited 97.5% sensitivity. IHC showed once cross-reactivity with p.V600R but was a good amendment to HRM.


Therefore, at present, a combination of HRM and IHC is recommended to increase sensitivity and specificity for routine diagnostic to fulfill the European requirements concerning vemurafenib therapy of melanoma patients.

HRM; cobas® BRAF V600 test; therascreen® BRAF pyro kit; Immunohistochemistry; Next generation sequencing; BRAF mutational analysis