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Metastasis Of Ocular Melanoma To Liver Can Now Be Calculated

ecular signature should receive more frequent and more intensive surveillance to monitor the spread of the cancer. Many also may be candidates for pre-emptive therapy of some kind.

Melanoma of the eye is relatively rare, diagnosed in only about seven people per million each year in the United States or about 2,000 cases annually. But Harbour says that over a million additional individuals in the United States have one or more pigmented tumours in the eye that are too small to be called melanomas. Known as a nevus, or mole, the tiny, pigmented tumours can eventually develop into a melanoma. Harbour predicts the information gained from the genetic signatures in ocular melanomas may one day help to predict which of the small moles will turn into melanomas, thus allowing them to be treated earlier to reduce the chance of metastasis.

About half of all patients with eye melanoma have their tumours detected during routine eye exams, before they begin to affect vision. The other half experience blurred vision, see flashing lights and distortions or have defects in the visual field that usually involve blank spots in their peripheral vision. Most of the time, those symptoms won't mean there's an ocular melanoma, Harbour says, but they should be examined by an eye doctor.

Unlike skin melanomas, these eye tumours don't seem to be related to ultraviolet light exposure, but Harbour says he is learning that the molecular signatures of eye melanomas can be remarkably similar to those seen in some forms of more common skin melanoma.

"When we look at skin melanomas, we see similar molecular signatures that distinguish the lower-grade, horizontal growth pattern from the higher-grade, vertical growth pattern," he says. "So we are working very closely with other researchers at Washington University who study skin melanoma to see whether this test might be useful in predicting whether some patients with skin cancer might be at increased ri
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