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An interview with Manuel Rodrigues — Expert in conjunctival melanoma

Manuel Rodrigues
Dr. Manuel Rodrigues is an oncology researcher at the Institut Curie (Paris, France) and in a recent interview he spoke to us about a quite rare ocular melanoma: conjunctival melanoma.

General information on conjunctival melanoma 

Conjunctival melanoma (ConjMel) is an adult ocular melanoma arising from conjunctiva, the visible ocular extern mucosa covering not only the anterior part of the eyeball, but also the internal surface of the eyelids. ConjMel are clinically at the edge between mucosal and skin melanomas, as they originated from a sun-exposed mucosa.

This type of melanoma mostly arises from primary acquired melanocytosis (an acquired pigmentation of the conjunctiva present in ~2/3 of cases) or from a conjunctival nevus (~1/4 of cases). Most known ConjMel risk factors are common with skin melanomas, including UV exposure and fair skin. In that sense and in contrast to uveal melanoma, the incidence of ConjMel has been increasing for the last decades probably because of increased exposure to sunlight. The treatment is based around surgery, brachytherapy and radiation therapy. If metastases arise, their treatment is the same as for skin melanoma patients.


Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Manuel. Could you tell us something about yourself and your research?

Thank you for your invitation. It is always a pleasure. I am a medical oncologist and a researcher on tumour genetics at Institut Curie, a comprehensive cancer center in Paris. I am specialized in gynaecological and ocular cancers. I work in the clinics 1.5 day/week for medical consultations, but I have my office in the lab, where I do my research in Marc-Henri Stern’s team. In research, we explore the genetics of these diseases from genetic predisposition (hereditary conditions increasing the risk of cancer), to the dissection of the molecular mechanisms implicated in ConjMel development, towards finding a treatment.


How did you get interested in conjunctival melanoma in particular?

I chose medical oncology to help patients with difficult-to-treat conditions. This, and a bit of chance, led me to take care of ocular melanoma patients. Most of these patients are suffering from uveal melanomas and I observed that ConjMel patients, with all their specificities, were left behind. This is how I got interested in these patients and their disease.

You are just working on a publication about conjunctival melanoma, so what are the latest learnings patients should be aware about?

In just a few words, this publication compares the genetics of ConjMel with other mucosal melanomas and shows the role of UV in a small proportion of mucosal melanomas, including most, but not only, ConjMel.

Thank you for your time, Manuel, and all the best for your research endeavours!

Thank you and I wish a long life to the Share4Rare community.


* Cover image: ©Stéphane Vaquero / Institut Curie
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