Metastatic Risk of Uveal Melanoma can be predicted by Gene Expression Profiling

Uveal melanoma is a rare form of cancer affecting only 2000 persons in the United States annually. However, once it metastasizes beyond the eye and reaches to other parts of the body like the liver, it becomes difficult to save the person. Now, in a new research, the results of which have been published in the latest online issue of the journal Ophthalmology, researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, led by J. William Harbour, have found a novel way of predicting the metastatic risk of posterior uveal melanoma.

The researchers tested 459 patients suffering from uveal melanoma and were able to predict their metastatic risk successfully in 97% of the cases. The research was conducted in 12 centers in the United States and Canada. The researchers did the gene expression profiling (GEP) of the tumors of the eye and were surprised to find that most of the tumors could be grouped into two clusters. They could recognize a group of 12 genes which could help in differentiating between a low risk and a high risk melanoma.

Based on the GEP, the researchers could classify the tumors into two types: those with class 1 gene expression usually remained confined to the affected eye, whereas those with a class 2 gene expression were likely to metastasize. The melanomas of the eye usually take up to 5 years to metastasize to other body parts. However, with the help of GEP, it is possible to identify such tumors much earlier. Treatment can then be initiated at an earlier date to  prevent or delay the metastasis. Such tumors can be excised before they have metastasized and the patient may then be subjected to chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

The research also showed that almost 60% of the uveal melanomas belong to class 1 and are unlikely to metastasize. They therefore, do not require a rigorous follow up. However, those with class 2 melanomas need to be followed up at regular intervals to detect any evidence of metastasis at the earliest.

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Date: 
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
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