Conjunctival squamous cell carcinoma arising in immunosuppressed patients (organ transplant, human immunodeficiency virus infection)

Ophthalmology. 2011 Nov;118(11):2133-2137.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2011.04.001. Epub 2011 Jul 16.


Purpose: To describe the relationship between chronic systemic immune suppression and conjunctival squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

Design: Retrospective interventional case series.

Participants: Thirteen immunosuppressed patients with conjunctival SCC.

Methods: Surgical excision in all cases plus additional topical interferon alpha-2B or mitomycin.

Main outcome measures: Tumor control.

Results: There were 3 groups of patients with chronic immunosuppression and conjunctival SCC, including 8 patients who received an organ transplant, 4 patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and 1 patient with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) receiving long-term corticosteroids. The transplanted organ was kidney (n=4) (1 with additional pancreas transplant), lung (n=2), liver (n=1), and heart (n=1). The mean patient age at presentation for the organ transplant group was 60 years, and the mean interval from transplant to conjunctival SCC was 8.2 years. Management included surgical excision (n=8) plus additional topical interferon alpha-2B (n=3) and mitomycin C (n=1). Three patients showed aggressive recurrence or new tumor, and 1 patient died of brain invasion of SCC. In the HIV group, the mean patient age at presentation was 54 years and the mean interval from HIV diagnosis to conjunctival SCC was 5 years. Management included surgical excision (n=5) plus additional topical interferon alpha-2B (n=3) and mitomycin C (n=1). One patient showed aggressive extensive recurrence requiring enucleation and radiotherapy, and there were no related deaths. The patient with SLE was 49 years old, had been taking systemic corticosteroids for 18 years, and showed control with surgical resection and topical interferon alpha-2B. Of the 5 patients treated with excision and prompt topical interferon alpha-2B, none showed recurrence or new tumor.

Conclusions: Conjunctival SCC can occur in immunosuppressed patients and can be more aggressive and invasive, requiring enucleation or exenteration. Surgical resection plus topical interferon alpha-2B might reduce the risk for recurrence or new tumor.

Financial disclosure(s): The author(s) have no proprietary or commercial interest in any materials discussed in this article.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / surgery
  • Conjunctival Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Conjunctival Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Conjunctival Neoplasms / surgery
  • Female
  • Graft Rejection / drug therapy
  • Graft Rejection / immunology
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • HIV-1 / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host*
  • Immunosuppression Therapy
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Interferon alpha-2
  • Interferon-alpha / therapeutic use
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / drug therapy
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitomycin / therapeutic use
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology*
  • Organ Transplantation*
  • Recombinant Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Interferon alpha-2
  • Interferon-alpha
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Mitomycin