Malignant melanoma of the uvea of the eye is the most common type of tumour that can develop inside the eye. Every year, 60 to 100 Swedes are diagnosed with the disease. Up to half of all patients develop metastases over time, even if the eye has been surgically removed at an early stage.
– After that, the prognosis is very poor, and the median patient survives for about a year. Our study aims to investigate whether melatonin can prevent the development of metastases,” says specialist physician and associate professor Gustav Stålhammar, who is managing the study.
Melatonin is an endogenous hormone that is produced in the epiphysis (pineal gland) in the brain, and has several functions, not least in the body's so-called circadian rhythm that controls sleep and wake cycles.
– This will be one of the largest randomised studies ever conducted with an additional treatment for the disease. And it is certainly the longest. The patients who are randomised to receive melatonin will take the medication every evening for five years. Then we will evaluate the results.
Melatonin has previously been tested for e.g. skin melanoma, renal cancer and lung cancer. In some cases, the effect has been evident, while other studies have shown weaker results. In both cases, the side effects have been mild.
– After several years of planning and extensive preparatory work, I am happy that we are finally up and running with recruiting patients,” says Gustav Stålhammar. We must remedy the fact that the prognosis for those affected by uveal melanoma is still so poor.