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Original Investigation
November 2017

Long-term Outcomes After Proton Beam Irradiation in Patients With Large Choroidal Melanomas

Author Affiliations
  • 1Retina Service, Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Harvard Medical School, Boston
JAMA Ophthalmol. 2017;135(11):1191-1196. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2017.3805
Key Points

Question  What are the 10-year outcomes in patients who underwent proton beam irradiation for large choroidal melanomas?

Finding  In this single-center cohort study of 336 patients who underwent proton beam radiotherapy, the 10-year rate of visual acuity retention of at least 20/200 was 9% and of at least counting fingers was 22%. Ten years after treatment, the eye was retained (70%) and the tumor was controlled (88%) in most cases.

Meaning  Eye conservation may be possible with retention of ambulatory vision in a small proportion of patients with large choroidal melanomas many years after treatment with proton beam irradiation.


Importance  Although radiotherapy has been used more frequently in past decades for the management of large melanomas, long-term efficacy of proton beam irradiation (PBI) of large choroidal melanomas has not been reported.

Objective  To evaluate long-term outcomes in patients who underwent PBI for the treatment of large choroidal melanomas.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Data were obtained at a single Boston, Massachusetts, academic tertiary referral practice for this retrospective cohort study. In total, 336 patients with large tumors treated over a 13-year period from January 1, 1985, to December 31, 1997, and followed up until the end points were reached or until December 31, 2008, were included. Data analyses were initially completed in February 2017 and finalized in July 2017. Large tumors were those with a height 10 mm or greater or a longest linear diameter greater than 16 mm or a height greater than 8 mm when the optic nerve was involved.

Intervention  Proton beam irradiation (total 70 Gy) delivered in 5 equal fractions.

Main Outcomes and Measures  The primary outcomes of rates of visual acuity retention, eye retention, tumor recurrence, and melanoma-related mortality were calculated using Kaplan-Meier estimates, and Cox proportional hazards regression analyses were completed to evaluate risk factors for tumor recurrence and melanoma-related mortality.

Results  In this cohort of 336 patients with large tumors, 150 were women and 329 were white; mean (SD) age was 60.0 (14.0) years. Of 178 patients without optic nerve involvement (tumor >1 disc diameter from optic nerve), the mean (SD) largest basal diameter was 18.1 (1.9) mm and mean height was 8.2 (2.7) mm. Optic nerve involvement and tumors greater than 8 mm were observed in 109 patients (32.4% of the cohort). Baseline visual acuity of 20/200 or better was observed in 244 patients (72.6%), and worse than 20/800 in 52 (15.5%). Ten-year rates of visual acuity retention were 8.7% (95% CI, 4.1%-15.6%) for at least 20/200 and 22.4% (95% CI, 15.4%-30.4%) for at least counting fingers. Ten years after PBI therapy, the eye was retained (70.4%; 95% CI, 61.5%-77.6%) and tumor controlled (87.5%; 95% CI, 76.8%-93.5%) in most patients. The 10-year all-cause mortality rate was 60.7% (95% CI, 55.5%-65.9%). Approximately half of the patients died of metastatic uveal melanoma (10-year rate, 48.5%; 95% CI, 43.0%-54.4%).

Conclusions and Relevance  This study demonstrates that eye conservation is possible in most cases, with ambulatory vision retained in a small proportion of patients 10 years after PBI. Tumor recurrence rates were low and mortality rates were comparable to those observed after enucleation.