Uveal melanoma is a rare form of cancer with high mortality. The incidence of metastases is attributed to early seeding of micrometastases from the eye to distant organs, primarily the liver. Once these seeded clusters of dormant tumor cells grow into larger radiologically detectable macrometastases, median patient survival is about 1 year. Melatonin is an important hormone for synchronizing circadian rhythms. It is also involved in other aspects of human physiology and may offer therapeutic benefits for a variety of diseases including cancer.
Articles involving the physiological effects of melatonin, pharmacokinetics, and previous use in cancer studies were acquired using a comprehensive literature search in the Medline (PubMed) and Web of Science databases. In total, 147 publications were selected and included in the review.
Melatonin has been observed to suppress the growth of cancer cells, inhibit metastatic spread, enhance immune system functions, and act as an anti-inflammatory in both in vitro and in vivo models. Melatonin may also enhance the efficacy of cancer treatments such as immuno- and chemotherapy. Numerous studies have shown promising results for oral melatonin supplementation in patients with other forms of cancer including cutaneous malignant melanoma. Cell line and animal studies support a hypothesis in which similar benefits may exist for uveal melanoma.
Given its low cost, good safety profile, and limited side effects, there may be potential for the use of melatonin as an adjuvant oncostatic treatment. Future avenues of research could include clinical trials to evaluate the effect of melatonin in prevention of macrometastases of uveal melanoma.