Jefferson University Hospitals

Ocular Melanoma

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The incidence of ocular, or uveal, melanoma is very low – about six cases per one million Americans – but the chances are good that patients with advanced stages of the disease will seek treatment at Jefferson. Jefferson has become a national referral center for patients whose ocular cancer has metastasized; in fact two-thirds of our patients with the disease travel from outside of the tri-state area. If you have been diagnosed with ocular melanoma, the most common malignant tumor originating in the eye, our medical oncologists and interventional radiologists can carefully guide you through available treatment options.

The course of treatment for this disease is generally determined by progression of the disease in the liver. There are currently no effective systemic chemotherapy regimens for treatment of liver metastases from this tumor.

In patients who are not candidates for surgical treatment of liver metastases due to either multiple tumors or additional tumors outside of the liver, we offer several treatment regimens:

  • Immunoembolization - developed at Jefferson as a novel therapy to improve survival in uveal (ocular) melanoma patients with liver metastases. Immunoembolization involves injecting cytokines (drugs which stimulate or modulate immune responses) directly into the arteries supplying the liver, combined with embolization of the hepatic artery. The procedure improves the survival for patients with liver metastases from, at best, five months under conventional treatment to an average of 14.5 months. There are just a few other centers in the country that treat uveal (ocular) melanoma, and none through immunoembolization.
  • Chemoembolization - performed for patients with more extensive tumor involvement in the liver. BCNU (a chemotherapy drug) dissolved in an oily liquid (Ethiodol) is injected directly into the arteries supplying the liver, along with a temporary dissolvable agent (Gelfoam) to block off the blood supply to the tumors.
  • Radioembolization - (administration of yttrium-90 radioactive microspheres) is also being investigated in the treatment of uveal (ocular) melanoma metastases to the liver. Tiny beads with an embedded radioactive material are injected directly into the arteries supplying the liver to kill the tumors. We are initiating a clinical trial to further study the effectiveness of this procedure for these tumors.

We perform more than 350 procedures annually for patients with metastatic uveal (ocular) melanoma.

Remote Medical Second Opinion

Find out how to receive a remote medical second opinion from Dr. Sato of the Department of Medical Oncology.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are the best way patients can receive new therapies and procedures. To find out if a clinical trial might be right for you, ask your health care provider or contact the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center Clinical Research Management Office at 215-955-1661.