Melanoma: Treatment for Ocular Melanoma

David Abramson David Abramson cares for patients with melanoma of the eye; he’s also head of our ophthalmic oncology team, the only one of its kind in the United States.

Many people come to us for care after an ophthalmologist conducting a routine eye examination detects suspicious changes in one of their eyes.

But because this condition is so rare, most ophthalmologists see only a few cases of eye melanoma over the course of their careers, and it’s often misdiagnosed. At MSK, we see more than 200 cases of benign eye lesions (choroidal nevi) each year and treat approximately 60 people with new eye melanomas (also called ocular melanoma) each year.

We’ll help you understand your condition and treatment options and design a personalized treatment plan for you.  

Brachytherapy

In this type of radiation treatment, radioactive material is surgically placed on the outside wall of the eye, in the same spot that the tumor is on the inside of the eye. Our experts have decades of experience using brachytherapy for eye melanoma, and we treat many people with this approach.

Clinical trials sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, in which MSK played a leadership role, have proven that the removal of the eye and brachytherapy are equally effective for survival in people with medium-size tumors.

Surgery

Depending on the size, location, and stage of the tumor, we may recommend that you have an operation to remove the eye. We often suggest this approach, called enucleation, if you have a relatively large eye melanoma. If the tumor is small, we may be able to treat it effectively with laser therapy.

Metastatic Ocular Melanoma

If melanoma spreads beyond the eye to other parts of the body, we may recommend a systemic treatment (treatment throughout the body), such as chemotherapy or other approaches. While there’s no standard systemic treatment known to be effective in ocular melanoma that’s metastasized (spread), we have several clinical trials under way to test immunotherapy approaches. 

 

Follow-up Care

After your treatment for eye melanoma, we usually like to see you twice a year for eye examinations. We also find it’s important to have periodic scans and blood tests to check for signs of disease in the rest of your body — just to be extra careful.