CINCINNATI—Uveal melanoma, a malignant tumor of the pigmented part of the eye and the second most common type of melanoma, is diagnosed in about 2,500 adults every year in the United States, and metastasis in this type of cancer occurs in about half of all cases.
For years, the University of Cincinnati (UC) Cancer Institute has provided plaque radiation treatment for these tumors but required inpatient hospital stays while the patient had the implant on his or her eye, disrupting routines and keeping them away from loved ones.
Recently, UC specialists have been offering brachytherapy as an outpatient procedure with the same, effective results.
"We are thought to be the only facility locally offering outpatient plaque treatment, which is possible due to a joint effort by UC experts in ocular oncology and radiation oncology, who revised safety procedures related to the radiation treatment. This allows us to send patients out of the hospital with their implant,” says Zélia Corrêa, MD, PhD, the Mary Knight Asbury Chair of Ophthalmic Pathology and Ocular Oncology, professor of ophthalmology at the UC College of Medicine and the director of ocular oncology within the UC Cancer Institute. "With plaque therapy, a small disc-shaped shield, known as a plaque, encasing small rice-shaped radioactive seeds is attached to the outside surface of the eye, overlying the tumor.
"The plaque is left in place for a few days and then removed; for the outpatient procedure, patients have a radiation wristband to alert others about the radiation, and a lead-coated eye patch which prevents radiation from leaving the eye. Brachytherapy is commonly used to treat ocular melanoma, and it is also used by other cancer doctors to treat different tumors including prostate, cervical cancer and head and neck cancers—cancers with a single location that haven’t spread.”
Correa says patients are either able to go home after the plaque is placed, if they live in the area, or if they are traveling from out of town, accommodations are made for them at the Musekamp Family Hope Lodge
. They return at the scheduled date and time to have the implant removed from their eye.
"We’re excited to offer this form of therapy for our patients, potentially saving them money and allowing them to receive treatment while outside of a hospital setting,” she says, adding that patients are monitored closely during their treatment with the plaques. "This type of therapy is localized and precise, eliminating side effects for patients; we are able to tailor the dosage of radiation needed in each seed. This form of therapy has been shown to be just as beneficial as traditional radiation therapy for uveal melanomas—and it is more convenient.”
To schedule an appointment with Correa or a member of the UC Cancer Institute’s Ocular Oncology Center, call 513-475-7300.