What is Ocular Melanoma?
Ocular Melanoma (OM), or melanoma of the eye (also called uveal melanoma) is the most common primary eye cancer in adults and the second most common type of melanoma. Like other melanomas, OM begins in melanocytes, the cells that produce the pigment melanin. In the United States, there are approximately 2,000 new cases each year.
OM is a particularly dangerous form of melanoma and accounts for approximately 5–12% of all melanoma cases. Approximately 50% of the ocular melanoma cases will metastasize to other organs. There is currently no known cure for metastatic OM.
Unmet need for treatments
There is an unmet need for OM treatments. Current therapy for OM depends on the size, location and other characteristics of the tumor at the time of diagnosis. Some ocular melanomas require removal of the eye (enucleation); others are treated with radiation. In either case, vision is lost or severely impaired in the affected eye. Evaluation of OM tumors may include genetic testing, which helps physicians predict likelihood of metastasis, but there are no treatment guarantees against OM’s metastatic spread.
Because OM is a rare disease, there has only been a modest amount of research into treatments or cures. One challenge is finding enough OM patients to participate in clinical trials that evaluate new drugs and procedures. The OM community (see links below) provides support to patients with OM and directs them to available resources, including ongoing studies that may lead to new treatments for OM.
For additional information about OM, the following links provide facts and patient and family support services:
OCULAR MELANOMA FOUNDATION
NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE