Photodynamic therapy for choroidal melanoma: What is the response rate?

Surv Ophthalmol. 2021 Jul-Aug;66(4):552-559. doi: 10.1016/j.survophthal.2020.09.006. Epub 2021 Jan 2.


To determine the response rate of choroidal melanoma following primary photodynamic therapy, we conducted a meta-analysis of published studies. A total of 7 studies reporting photodynamic therapy as primary treatment of choroidal melanoma in 162 patients with a mean tumor height of 2.8 mm (1.4 to 4.2) were identified. Forty-six percent of tumors were amelanotic, 48% were fully pigmented, and 6% had partial pigmentation. The photodynamic therapy parameters in all studies included 10-minute intravenous infusion of verteporfin (6 mg/m2), but varied in number of sessions (1 to 3), fluence (1× to 19×), and number of spots (single or multiple). The response was defined as tumor regression (partial or total) or lack of growth after initial treatment. The response to photodynamic therapy was predominantly observed as regression (126 [78%]). Overall response rate was 80% (mean) with a wide range among studies (58%-100%) over a period of 50 months (mean) with variable follow-up (range, 1-156 months). None of the studies reported progression- or recurrence-free survival; however, the recurrence rate was not related to the follow-up duration. Favorable prognostic factors were smaller size and lack of pigmentation. The overall response rate of 80% suggests that photodynamic therapy may be an effective primary treatment for small choroidal melanoma, especially in cases without pigmentation. Artifacts in study design (inclusion criteria and outcome measure) may have contributed to the variable observed response rate. Further studies with uniform inclusion criteria, standardized treatment parameters, well-defined outcome measures, and long follow-up are needed.

Keywords: choroid; choroidal melanoma; melanoma; ocular oncology; photodynamic therapy; uvea; uveal melanoma.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Choroid Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Choroid Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Fluorescein Angiography
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Melanoma* / drug therapy
  • Melanoma* / pathology
  • Photochemotherapy*
  • Photosensitizing Agents / therapeutic use
  • Porphyrins* / therapeutic use
  • Visual Acuity


  • Photosensitizing Agents
  • Porphyrins