Management of posterior uveal melanoma: past, present, and future: the 2014 Charles L. Schepens lecture

Ophthalmology. 2015 Feb;122(2):414-28. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2014.08.046. Epub 2014 Oct 14.


Purpose: To review the management of ciliary body and choroidal melanoma (posterior uveal melanoma [PUM]) over the last century with an emphasis on changing concepts.

Design: Retrospective review.

Participants: Review of personal experience over 40 years and pertinent literature on management of PUM.

Methods: Diagnosis and therapy for PUM.

Main outcome measures: Patient survival.

Results: In the early 1900s, most patients presented with a large symptomatic melanoma that necessitated enucleation, and the systemic prognosis was poor. In the 1970s, controversy erupted regarding the role of enucleation for PUM. Some authorities advocated prompt enucleation, and others proposed that enucleation promoted metastasis, known as the "Zimmerman hypothesis." Others recommended observation, withholding treatment until tumor growth was documented. During the 1970s, there was a trend toward eye-saving procedures, including laser photocoagulation, surgical removal of tumor, and techniques of radiotherapy. Despite local treatment success, systemic prognosis remained guarded with approximately 40% mortality overall. However, there was convincing evidence that smaller tumors offered a significantly better prognosis. Currently, there is a movement toward earlier identification and treatment of small melanomas using clinical factors predictive of malignant potential, in keeping with similar philosophy regarding other cancers. Further understanding of melanoma cytogenetics and molecular pathways have helped to recognize patients at risk for metastasis. At-risk patients are offered systemic therapeutic trials to prevent metastasis. We anticipate that the future management of PUM will focus on detection of clinical and imaging clues for earliest diagnosis, prompt local tumor treatment, and systemic targeted therapies for microscopic metastasis or prevention of metastasis. Personalized evaluation of patient-specific melanoma molecular pathway signature could allow for therapeutic intervention at a site specific to the pathway abnormality that leads to the development of melanoma.

Conclusions: Management of PUM has made major strides over the past century from the days of enucleation for massive, fatal tumor to early detection of smallest tumors with a more favorable prognosis. Current and future targeted specific tumor pathway interruption using systemic agents could improve survival.

Publication types

  • Lecture
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brachytherapy
  • Ciliary Body / pathology
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Eye Enucleation
  • Humans
  • Hyperthermia, Induced
  • Laser Coagulation
  • Melanoma / diagnosis*
  • Melanoma / therapy*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Therapeutics / trends*
  • Uveal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Uveal Neoplasms / therapy*

Supplementary concepts

  • Uveal melanoma