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Eye Cancer Research Symposium

Aug 13 2019

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20/20 Blog

Palo Alto, CA – An Ocular Melanoma Proteomics Symposium at Stanford University was hosted by Vinit Mahajan M.D., Ph.D., Vice Chair of Research in Ophthalmology, and Prithvi Mruthyunjaya M.D., M.H.S., Director of the Ocular Oncology Service. A group of clinicians and scientists from across the Stanford campus worked to collaborate on a research program to cure ocular melanoma.

Ocular melanoma is the most common primary intraocular tumor arising from pigmented cells inside the eye. While surgical therapies can often save sight and prevent removal of the eye, the tumor can still spread in the body. Earlier diagnosis and new therapies are needed to save patients’ lives.

Huy Nguyen, retina fellow, and Ramsudha Narala, ocular oncology fellow, began the session with an update on the clinical diagnosis and management of ocular melanoma. 

Dr. Mruthyunjaya spoke on “Uveal melanoma biopsy and specimen acquisition.” Mruthyunjaya explained how at the time of surgery, Stanford surgeons ask patients if they would like to donate eye fluids and tissue that are normally discarded to the Stanford ophthalmology department biorepository.

Mahajan noted, “Eye tissue discarded during surgery holds the clues researchers need to prevent and cure both common and rare eye diseases. These tissues are extremely valuable for molecular experiments aimed at finding new diagnostic tests and novel treatments.” 

Carefully collected and stored tissues open up research opportunities to study uveal melanoma in real time by using patient samples for research projects. The biorepository is maintained through the collaboration of surgeons, operating room staff, and research coordinators. Teja Chemudupati, clinical research coordinator associate, broke down the process for the group.   

Important discoveries in eye cancers, rare diseases, and autoimmune diseases have already been made using tissues from the ophthalmology biorepository. Members of Mahajan’s lab use proteomics, the large-scale analysis of thousands of proteins in eye fluid, to narrow in on a cure for eye cancer. 

"We are using an advanced proteomic analysis platform to identify molecular clues to help detect tumors at the earliest stages and identify biomarkers that can be targeted with the latest anti-cancer therapies," Gabriel Velez, a graduate student with Mahajan, explained to the discussion group. 

Sunil Reddy M.D., clinical assistant professor in oncology, provides medical care for ocular melanoma patients and works closely with Dr. Mruthyunjaya’s team. He explained the methods for clinical trial development and answered questions on how drug repurposing can benefit cancer patients.

Guest speaker Mandeep S. Sagoo M.B., Ph.D., Professor of Ophthalmology and Ocular Oncology at UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon, Moorfields Eye Hospital & Barts Health NHS Trust, London, UK, spoke on the role genes play in uveal melanoma. Later in the week, he presented at the Stanford ophthalmology grand rounds. His talk was titled “Plaque Brachytherapy for Intraocular Tumors”.

Attending the meeting were Stanford ophthalmology faculty Vinit Mahajan M.D., Ph.D., Prithvi Mruthyunjaya M.D., and Sui Wang Ph.D.; Stanford Professor of pathology Jonathan Lin, M.D., Ph.D.; Stanford surgery fellows Huy Nguyen M.D. and Ramsudha Narala M.D.; Stanford research engineer Bogdan Tanasa Ph.D.; graduate students Gabriel Velez B.S. and Marcus Toral B.S.;  Stanford clinical research coordinator associate Teja Chemudupati BS; Stanford oncology faculty Sunil Reddy M.D.; and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology Ocular Oncology Professor Mandeep S. Sagoo, MB, PhD, FRCS (Ed), FRCOphth