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Original Investigation
September 2018

Survival Rates in Patients After Treatment for Metastasis From Uveal Melanoma

Author Affiliations
  • 1Ocular Melanoma Center, Retina Service, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston
JAMA Ophthalmol. 2018;136(9):981-986. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2018.2466
Key Points

Question  Have there been meaningful improvements in survival rates among patients who were treated for metastatic uveal melanoma?

Finding  In this cohort study of patients who were treated between 1982 and 2009 and received a diagnosis of metastasis through 2011, there were similar differences in survival rates between patients who received treatment for metastasis and those who did not compared with patients who were treated for uveal melanoma between 1975 and 1987 who developed metastasis through 1988.

Meaning  Despite the development of new therapeutics, these findings suggest that significant treatment advances for metastatic uveal melanoma have not been made; further research to identify effective treatments is necessary.


Importance  Despite high rates of local tumor control in patients who are treated for uveal melanoma, most patients will eventually die of metastasis. When metastasis develops, the liver is involved in most cases, and hepatic metastases are particularly refractory to treatment. Finding effective treatments has been challenging. A comparison of survival rates in patients who were treated for metastasis over approximately 30 years may offer insights into progress that has been made in prolonging survival.

Objective  To compare survival after treatment for metastasis in a cohort of patients who were treated for uveal melanoma at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEE) during an approximately 30-year period with an earlier analysis to determine if there was meaningful improvement in survival rates after treatment for metastasis.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This review included patients (n = 661) who received a diagnosis of metastasis from uveal melanoma who were identified from a cohort of 3063 patients treated at MEE between January 1982 and December 2009 and followed up through December 2011. They were compared with findings from a previous study of patients treated between 1975 and 1987.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Survival rates in patients who received treatment for metastasis were compared with those who did not receive treatment. The differences in survival rates were compared with an earlier analysis that was completed at MEE. A comparison of patients with hepatic metastases and extrahepatic metastases was also completed. Kaplan-Meier analysis was used to calculate survival rates and the log rank test was used to test for statistically significant differences between the groups.

Results  Of 620 patients with race information available, 615 (97.3%) were white; the mean (SD) age of patients was 59.71 (13.23) years and 307 (47.3%) were women. The median time from the initial treatment of the tumor to metastasis was 3.45 years (interquartile range [IQR], 2.0-5.57). Overall, the median survival time was poor (3.9 months [IQR, 1.6-10.1]). Patients who received treatment fared better than those who did not receive treatment (median survival after metastasis diagnosis, 6.3 months [IQR, 2.96-14.41] vs 1.7 months [IQR, 0.66-3.5]). This finding was similar to that of our earlier study in which median survival was 5.2 months and 2 months for treated and untreated patients, respectively.

Conclusions and Relevance  These findings suggest that advances in treatments that lead to clinically meaningful improvements in survival times have not been realized. Similar survival rates in patients who were treated for metastasis were observed in this recent analysis compared with our earlier study. Adjuvant therapies that are initiated at the time of melanoma diagnosis may be the most effective way to prolong survival.