Uveal and Skin Melanoma Share a Common Name, But That’s The Only Similarity, Says Expert


Melanoma of the skin has been shown to be greatly associated with exposure to sunlight, whereas uveal melanoma — commonly known as cancer of the eye — is not.

When most people hear of melanoma, their first thought may likely turn to skin cancer.

However, that is not always the case, according to Dr. Nathan L. Scott, division chief of ocular oncology at Shiley Eye Institute and Viterbi Family Department of Ophthalmology at UC San Diego Health in La Jolla, California.

Uveal melanoma is a rare form of eye cancer. As Scott explained in an interview with CURE®, the only similarity the two diseases share is that the cancers are derived from a melanocyte.

The vast difference, according to Scott, is one of the reasons why certain immunotherapies have shown great promise in cutaneous melanoma but not in uveal melanoma.


Scott: That’s one of the biggest issues with you know, you probably know this with treatment with uveal melanoma is that, wow, they're both melanoma, you know, they're very, very different, you know, skin, melanoma and uveal melanoma have completely separate genetic profiles and that's why they're treated differently and, you know, such that their only real relationship is that they, you know, derived from a melanocyte.

Ryan McDonald: That’s what I was going to ask because like, you know, when I hear melanoma or when typical person hears melanoma, they think skin, right, and then you're like, Well, how do I have skin cancer of the (eye).

Scott: It’s of those things … it's tough because they share a common name, but they couldn't be more different. Skin melanoma (has) been very highly associated with UV radiation, exposure to sunlight, whereas uveal melanoma, not so much. It doesn't have the genetic markers that suggest radiation damage.

The only thing that makes them similar is the fact that they come from a pigmented cell, which is called a melanocyte. They’re just completely separate in the eye. So that's why we've had this great success with cutaneous melanoma in terms of all these immunotherapies with the CTLA-4 (inhibitors) and the PD-1 (inhibitors), but for uveal melanoma, they don't seem to work all that well yet.

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