John B. Halligan, MD | Authors

Successful Treatment of Melanoma Metastatic to the Left Atrium Using External Beam Radiation Therapy

June 15, 2010

The successful treatment of a patient with primary nasal melanoma metastatic to the lung, pulmonary vein, and left atrium using radiation therapy is described. The patient was effectively treated with a conventional external beam radiation fractionation scheme (rather than a more commonly used hypofractioned regimen) that was utilized to minimize risk of arterial embolus of the tumor or rupture of a vessel wall. A post-treatment CT demonstrated a significant decrease in the caliber of the right pulmonary vein and tumor thrombus. The patient never developed cardiac valvular dysfunction or acute life-threatening massive embolism of tumor from the atrium. Unfortunately, the patient experienced clinical decline secondary to the massive progression of intra-abdominal disease and subsequently died from multiple liver metastases and liver failure. Numerous studies and this case report demonstrate that radiation therapy can be very effective in the treatment of malignant melanoma, especially when only small volumes of disease need to be treated and adequate total doses are used. Therefore, radiation therapy appears to play an important yet underutilized role in the treatment of metastatic melanomas.