Proton Therapy for Ocular Tumors


UCSF’s Ocular Melanoma program utilizes protons, charged subatomic particles, to treat melanomas that occur in the eye.  “Ocular melanoma” or “uveal melanoma” are the terms used collectively to describe melanomas which occur in the iris, ciliary body or choroid regions of the eye.  Ocular melanoma patients treated with proton therapy usually enjoy an excellent chance for tumor control in the eye.  The proton treatment is planned to be performed over the course of one week.  Because UCSF if one of only a few proton centers in the United States, we often have patients come from very long distances to receive care here.

About the UCSF program

The UCSF Ocular Melanoma Proton Radiation Program is one of a very select group of programs across the nation and world, which has long-term experience in treating uveal melanoma. We have been treated uveal melanoma with particle radiation therapy since 1978. Over the past few decades, we have been in the forefront of exploring the science of uveal melanomas and advancing radiation treatment for the condition. We have successfully treated a high volume of uveal melanoma cases and understand the complexities in planning and treatment.

At UCSF, we have treated more than one thousand patients with uveal melanoma and have had extremely high tumor control rates.

Why proton therapy?

Proton or charged particle radiation, which is one type of radiation therapy, is very effective for treating uveal melanoma. Because of the properties of proton therapy, there is minimal dose to the surrounding normal tissues, making it ideal for treating tumors of the eye. Proton radiation has very high rates of controlling melanomas of the eye and maintaining your natural eye. Proton therapy is considered a standard of care option for uveal melanoma treatment.

What to expect in clinic?

Your care begins with your initial consultation with Kavita K. Mishra, MD MPH. At that appointment Dr. Mishra will perform a comprehensive medical examination and take your medical history.  She will describe the therapy, its risks and benefits as well as the alternative treatments as they apply to your case.  Following the consultation, if you feel comfortable, you may proceed directly to the radiation planning session (simulation). You will have ample time to discuss your care and have all your questions answered. During the simulation, measurements and x-rays are taken and a special immobilization mask will be made for your treatment.  This helps with your positioning for the treatment.

The treatment is performed at Crocker Nuclear Laboratory in Davis, California, approximately 70 miles north-east of San Francisco (see link below).  The treatment itself only takes about 2 minutes.  During the treatment you will not feel the radiation; the radiation itself is painless.  You will be positioned in an upright, chair position and use the mask made for you to keep in place.  You will see a small red light which you will focus your gaze on.  This keeps your eye from moving.  This is performed usually once daily over 4 days. Your follow-up continues with your opthalmologist medical oncologist, primary care physician, and our department as appropriate.

Need more information?

Please feel free to call the UCSF Department of Radiation Oncology to discuss any further questions at (415) 353-7175.

Useful information:

Directions to Crocker Nuclear Lab in Davis handout