Uveal and Skin Melanoma Share a Common Name, But That’s The Only Similarity, Says Expert

September 21, 2022
Ryan McDonald
Ryan McDonald

Ryan McDonald, Associate Editorial Director for CURE®, has been with the team since February 2020 and has previously covered medical news across several specialties prior to joining MJH Life Sciences. He is a graduate of Temple University, where he studied journalism and minored in political science and history. He considers himself a craft beer snob and would like to open a brewery in the future. During his spare time, he can be found rooting for all major Philadelphia sports teams. Follow Ryan on Twitter @RMcDonald11 or email him at rmcdonald@curetoday.com.

Brielle Benyon
Brielle Benyon

Brielle Benyon, Senior Editor for CURE®, has been with MJH Life Sciences since 2016. She has served as an editor on both CURE and its sister publication, Oncology Nursing News. Brielle is a graduate from The College of New Jersey, where she is pursuing a Master’s in Public Health (part-time). Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, CrossFit and wishing she had the grace and confidence of her toddler-aged daughter.

Melanoma of the skin has been shown to be greatly associated with exposure to sunlight, whereas uveal melanoma — commonly known as cancer of the eye — is not.

When most people hear of melanoma, their first thought may likely turn to skin cancer.

However, that is not always the case, according to Dr. Nathan L. Scott, division chief of ocular oncology at Shiley Eye Institute and Viterbi Family Department of Ophthalmology at UC San Diego Health in La Jolla, California.

Uveal melanoma is a rare form of eye cancer. As Scott explained in an interview with CURE®, the only similarity the two diseases share is that the cancers are derived from a melanocyte.

The vast difference, according to Scott, is one of the reasons why certain immunotherapies have shown great promise in cutaneous melanoma but not in uveal melanoma.


Scott: That’s one of the biggest issues with you know, you probably know this with treatment with uveal melanoma is that, wow, they're both melanoma, you know, they're very, very different, you know, skin, melanoma and uveal melanoma have completely separate genetic profiles and that's why they're treated differently and, you know, such that their only real relationship is that they, you know, derived from a melanocyte.

Ryan McDonald: That’s what I was going to ask because like, you know, when I hear melanoma or when typical person hears melanoma, they think skin, right, and then you're like, Well, how do I have skin cancer of the (eye).

Scott: It’s of those things … it's tough because they share a common name, but they couldn't be more different. Skin melanoma (has) been very highly associated with UV radiation, exposure to sunlight, whereas uveal melanoma, not so much. It doesn't have the genetic markers that suggest radiation damage.

The only thing that makes them similar is the fact that they come from a pigmented cell, which is called a melanocyte. They’re just completely separate in the eye. So that's why we've had this great success with cutaneous melanoma in terms of all these immunotherapies with the CTLA-4 (inhibitors) and the PD-1 (inhibitors), but for uveal melanoma, they don't seem to work all that well yet.

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