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New Website Raises Awareness of Uveal Melanoma and the Importance of Prognostic Testing

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Key Points

  • Website provides details on treating the primary eye tumor and on predictive genomic testing to identify high-risk patients whose cancer is likely to metastasize in subsequent years.
  • Only 2% to 4% of patients with uveal melanoma have detectable metastasis at the time of diagnosis, but approximately half of these patients’ eye cancer will spread to the liver.
  • The gene expression profile test DecisionDx-UM predicts a patient's metastatic risk and should be performed at the time of diagnosis, before radiation therapy.

Launch of a website created to educate newly diagnosed patients, their families, and health-care providers about uveal melanoma, was announced recently by Castle Biosciences, Inc, a developer of prognostic tests for rare cancers. The website, MyUvealMelanoma.com, addresses the treatment of uveal melanoma and the importance of prognostic testing by sharing the experience of patients recently diagnosed with this disease.

Predicting Metastatic Risk

Determining whether metastasis has occurred is especially critical with uveal melanoma because approximately half of these patients' eye cancer will ultimately spread to the liver, a development that is usually fatal. MyUvealMelanoma.com provides details on treating the primary eye tumor and on predictive genomic testing to identify high-risk patients whose cancer is likely to metastasize in subsequent years.

The gene expression profile test predicts metastatic risk by analyzing the molecular signature of a patient's eye tumor.  The test, called DecisionDx-UM, was discovered in the early 2000s by J. William Harbour, MD, an ocular oncologist and retina surgeon, and it has since become standard of care in the management of eye cancer for the majority of ocular oncology practices.

Peter Leeflang, one of the patients featured on MyUvealMelanoma.com, spoke about the importance of knowing his risk of metastasis. "Even if it was a worst case scenario, I wanted to know so I could get my life in order. For me, knowing my risk counted big time. It sits in one's mind all the time if you don't know," he said. Peter was diagnosed with uveal melanoma in early 2012 and said he was relieved to learn through gene expression testing that his tumor type is less likely to metastasize.

Testing at Time of Diagnosis is Critical

"Since only about 2% to 4% of patients have detectable metastatic disease at the time their primary uveal melanoma tumor is diagnosed, it is vitally important to have an accurate prognostic tool that identifies patients at high risk of the cancer spreading," said Dr. Harbour, Professor of Ophthalmology, Vice Chairman for Translational Research and Director of the Ocular Oncology Service at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami. "Understanding one's individual risk helps guide further monitoring and treatment plans."

The new website carries the urgent message for newly diagnosed patients that testing must be performed prior to radiation treatment, the most common form of treatment for the primary eye tumor. Doctors planning to test usually take a small sample of the tumor just prior to removing it surgically and treating the area with radiation.

"The most critical moment for any cancer patient is at the time of diagnosis," said Derek Maetzold, CEO of Castle Biosciences. "In the case of uveal melanoma, testing needs to be performed prior to eye treatment to determine whether the tumor type is likely to have spread beyond the eye.”

"Our goal with MyUvealMelanoma.com is to inform newly diagnosed patients and their families of everything they need to know about their disease, including the availability of prognostic testing so that, with the help of their doctor, they can determine the best and most appropriate follow-up care."

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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