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Uveal Melanoma: Bypassing an invasive eye biopsy through development of a novel blood test

The research

Melanoma of the eye (uveal melanoma) is the most common cancer of the eye, and the leading cause of eye cancer related death. Of those diagnosed with uveal melanoma, 50% will have the cancer spread (metastasise) to other parts of the body and of those with detectable spread, 92% will die within two years. Therefore, it is important to determine which patients fall within this 50% for closer clinical follow-up and early treatment to prevent the spread of the cancer. Fortunately, those who sit within this 50% have specific genetic mutations that can be observed, enabling early intervention.

At present, the classification of uveal melanoma types is achieved by obtaining a sample from the tumour in the eye prior to radiation treatment. The procedure is risky, with complications that can totally or partially impair vision of the affected eye. In addition, in cases where the test has been deemed inconclusive, due to insufficient sample or degradation, no repeat test can be performed. Considering their risk-benefits many patients declined the test. After treatment of the primary tumour, and unknowing of the patient’s specific risk, patients are monitored irregularly and clinical practices significantly vary. The test that the ECU uveal melanoma research team is developing will provide a less invasive alternative that can be performed routinely, repeatedly and rapidly in real time when treatment decisions need to be made.

The research team’s goal is to see the blood test become a routine test in clinics worldwide where it can be used as a liquid biopsy to accompany current pathology tests for prognosis of uveal melanoma.

Partners

This project originated from a collaboration with ophthalmologists at the Lion Eyes Institute and Perth Retina. It has been enhanced by collaboration with anatomical and molecular pathologists at PathWest. The next step is to roll out a national clinical study in partnership with oncologists at the Kinghorn Cancer Centre and ophthalmologists at the Chatswood Grove Eye Clinic and Sydney Eye Hospital in New South Wales.

Collaborators

The following collaborators are involved in this research

  • Dr Tim Isaacs, Perth Retina
  • Associate Professor Fred Chen, Lion Eye Institute
  • Dr Tersia Vermulen, PathWest
  • Dr Jacqueline Bentel, PathWest
  • Professor Wendy Erber, The University of Western Australia
  • Associate Professor Richard Allcock, The University of Western Australia
  • Associate Professor Anthony Joshua, Garvan Institute of Medical Research and Kinghorn Cancer Centre

Sponsorships

Raine Medical Research Foundation

Researchers

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