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Providing Hope for Eye Cancer Patients

Apr 1 2021

Posted In:

20/20 Blog

Palo Alto, CA —Through funding from The Cancer League, a local cancer charity, Prithvi Mruthyunjaya MD, MHS and  Vinit Mahajan MD, PhD, associate professors of ophthalmology at Stanford’s Byers Eye Institute, are the first to identify proteins from inside the eye that predict survival risk in patients with a form of melanoma cancer in the eye. These findings may aide disease surveillance and point to personalized patient therapies. 

Uveal melanoma (UM) is the most common intraocular tumor found in adults, and nearly half of the cases will progress into a metastatic disease, typically spreading to the liver. In recent gene testing, researchers focused on determining which patients are prone to metastasize. Using molecular surgery and advanced proteomics to survey 1000 proteins, the research team identified a few key proteins in the eye fluid of Stanford UM patients.

Mahajan, director of the Stanford Molecular Surgery Program, said, “Our Ophthalmology Biorepository allows researchers and physicians to analyze diseased tissues that would have otherwise been discarded. Looking at disease at a molecular level is a pathway to precision medicine that can address the challenges of rare and hard to treat eye diseases.” 

Mruthyunjaya and Mahajan collaborated on the study with other Stanford faculty and trainees including: Teja Chemudupati, clinical research coordinator; Cassie Ludwig MD, MS, ophthalmology resident alum; Huy Nguyen MD, vitreoretinal clinical fellow; Sunil Reddy MD, clinical assistant professor, medicine; and Marcus Toral PhD and Gabriel Velez PhD, medical scientist training program students in the Mahajan Laboratories; and the Stanford Oncology Division.

“Originally it seemed there were limited therapy options for UM patients, but now this study makes us hopeful that there are translational technologies to assist these patients in their treatment process,” Mruthyunjaya said. “We are optimistic  these findings will revolutionize future clinical trials.”

Dr. Mahajan and Dr. Mruthyunjaya were recently interviewed in Stanford Medicine's SCOPE.

Their collaborative research was recently published in Molecular Cancer, “Liquid biopsy proteomics of uveal melanoma reveals biomarkers associated with metastatic risk.”