• Update on Uveal Melanoma Case Clusters


    Two geographic clusters of uveal melanoma cases aren’t true cancer clusters—at least not at the moment. Instead, these cases are being defined as “unique study populations,” said John O. Mason III, MD, speaking during the Ocular Oncology and Pathology Subspecialty Day.

    Dr. Mason offered the following update on these cases, which have garnered considerable media attention.

    North Carolina. The first study population is based in Huntersville, North Carolina, which is a suburb of Charlotte. All told, 22 patients were identified; of these, 11 women and 4 men met the study inclusion criteria and were confirmed to have uveal melanoma. 

    Geospatial and genetic analyses were conducted. 

    • Because the geospatial analysis failed to find a definite hot spot, an environmental analysis has yet to be performed. (While a number of possible environmental toxins could be involved, pinning down a causative connection is not possible without a hot spot.) 
    • All patients are negative for the BAP1 germline mutation that is associated with ocular melanoma; tissue specimens are still being investigated.

    Auburn University. This study population involves 30 patients with uveal melanoma who either attended or worked at Auburn University in Alabama from the late 1980s to the early 1990s “Nine of them are my patients, and I’m currently vetting another 6 patients [for the study],” Dr. Mason said.

    The mean age of diagnosis for these patients is 44. Unlike the Huntersville patient population, which is predominately female, the Auburn patients are equally divided between the sexes, Dr. Mason said.

    The researchers will perform a genetic analysis, and geospatial and environmental analyses are also planned. “We think genetics is crucial and is likely the cause,” Dr. Mason commented.—Jean Shaw

    Financial disclosures. None.

    Next story from AAO 2018—Glaucoma Delivery Platforms Edge Closer to Commercialization: “I think it is safe to say that in a decade, we will be using eyedrops rarely”—James D. Brandt, MD.