Fine-needle aspiration biopsy in the management of choroidal melanoma

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Purpose of review

Fine-needle aspiration biopsy of choroidal melanoma offers an opportunity to determine the prognosis for metastasis and provide tissue resources for further study to develop molecular-based targeted therapies. Patients increasingly desire as much information as possible about their cancer so that they may plan their lives and investigate new treatments. Physicians who treat choroidal melanoma must become skilled in the technique so that even the smallest tumors, in patients who might benefit most from early treatment, may be safely biopsied. Individualized molecular therapies of the future will be predicated on the results of a patient's fine-needle biopsy.

Recent findings

Fine-needle aspiration biopsy for metastatic prognostication was first performed in North America at the Jules Stein Eye Institute, the University of California, Los Angeles in 2004. Subsequent reports from the major ophthalmic oncology centers have since evaluated several platforms for prognostication using mainly DNA-based approaches. Monosomy 3 of the primary tumor is the cytogenetic abnormality most strongly associated with the development of metastasis. The longest clinical follow-up of a cohort of patients at the Jules Stein Eye Institute who underwent biopsy for prognostication reported in 2012 revealed no increase in ocular morbidity or metastatic risk.


Fine-needle aspiration biopsy for prognostication in choroidal melanoma is the current standard of care because of new molecular knowledge and a more patient-centered approach to healthcare. Future targeted molecular therapies and metastatic surveillance in patients with choroidal melanoma may be directed by the results of fine-needle aspiration biopsy of the primary tumor.

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