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Merseyside Cancer Centre launches breakthrough trial for rare eye cancer

The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre has announced it is to launch an innovative treatment trial for a rare form of eye cancer – Uveal Melanoma.  The clinical trial could revolutionise the way in which cancer patients with advanced forms of the disease are treated, to help prolong life.


Melanoma is a cancer which develops in the cells which produce pigment.  Melanomas are more common in skin, yet approximately 400 – 450 patients every year are diagnosed with melanoma of the eye*.  Although rare, for people diagnosed with large eye melanomas, the survival rates are fairly low; about 47 per cent with this type and stage of cancer will live for more than five years after diagnosis.

The trial taking place at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in Wirral, Merseyside will target patients whose cancer has spread to the liver and for whom surgery is not an option.  The treatment involves a combination of drugs which are administered orally.

Dr Ernie Marshall, Consultant in Medical Oncology at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre and Principal Investigator in the trial, commented: “The trial we are running at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre is based upon pioneering research from the US. The research has identified a possible new drug combination which will disrupt the pathways through which cancers send their signals, and therefore prevent further growth.  Preliminary trials in the US have shown some success, but it is hoped that these further trials will improve results through the addition of further drugs.”

Joanne Upton, advanced nurse practitioner at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, explained: “Melanomas of the eye are more rare and comparatively little is understood about what causes them, with no direct link yet being found to exposure to the sun and UV rays. Uveal melanoma is melanoma of the eye. It's a cancer that develops from cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes produce the dark-coloured pigment melanin, which is responsible for the colour of our skin. These cells are found in many places in our body, including the eye.  Uveal melanoma is the most common type of ocular melanoma. This occurs along the uveal tract of the eye, which includes the choroid, ciliary body and iris and can spread to other organs, typically the liver.

 “Unfortunately, for a number of patients, this form of cancer is likely to reoccur, which is why clinical trials such as this one are of critical importance.  We are really hoping to change the outlook for patients for whom surgery is not an option as the cancer has spread.”

The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre is one of only two hospitals in the UK from which the international trial is being run, the other being the Royal Marsden in London.  This treatment highlights The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre’s commitment to staying at the forefront of the development of new treatments and techniques to benefit patients across the region.

The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre works collaboratively with a number of research partners to provide access to over 120 international clinical trials which test new treatments for cancer aimed at ensuring patients experience the best available cancer care. Clinical trials are a crucial part of investigating which treatments and medicines work best for patients.

 In 2013, The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre also celebrated ten years as the host of the Merseyside and Cheshire Cancer Research Network, which has helped increase the number of local people being recruited to take part in international cancer research from four to 23 per cent since 2002.

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