Since 2012, Professor Nicholas Hayward’s team at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, in partnership with Terrace Eye Centre, Queensland Ocular Oncology Service colleagues, Drs William Glasson,
Sunil Warrier and Lindsay McGrath, have undertaken pilot work investigating the genetics of ocular melanoma (OM) with a particular focus on uveal melanoma (UM). Despite its rarity, UM is the most common
eye cancer. At present, molecular tests are used to categorise patients into low, medium and high risk groups for likelihood of metastasis (cancer spread). Our dedicated team are working towards a better understanding
of the molecular causes of this menacing cancer, with the aim of identifying cellular components that could be targeted therapeutically to better treat this disease.

While some of the mutational events driving UM have been characterized, this disease remains vastly understudied, thus potential life‐saving clinical benefits of research await discovery. By investigating how DNA mutations affect the expression or action of genes, we hope to piece together how these events lead to development of UM. Based on their pilot work, our highly motivated team published a study which reveals a previously unknown and recurring cancer‐promoting mutation, which occurs in 4‐5% of UM. This ground‐breaking work was done without any specific funding.

Due to the impressively high participation rate amongst the Queensland and Northern New South Wales OM patient community we could rapidly expand our unique study group if we had dedicated financial support. Overwhelmingly, OM patients invited to bio‐bank their blood, saliva or tumour samples are eager to be involved in medical research. Our patients altruistically speak of the hope that providing a sample and participating in our research will help others in the future.

Ethics approval for patient recruitment, clinical data and sample collection for this multi‐centre exploratory research project has been granted through Metro South Health Services. Sample collection has started and is ongoing. We are continuing to establish cell lines derived from tumours, an extremely time‐consuming and difficult process, but an invaluable resource for our work as well as others in the field. However, since there is no formal funding, very little experimental work has been done. With dedicated financial support from individuals and community groups, we are positioned to be the southern hemisphere’s centre for excellence in ocular melanoma research.

Fully tax deductable special purpose donations may be directed to ocular melanoma research in the Oncogenomics Laboratory at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute under the supervision of Professor Nick Hayward for the purposes of furthering research into ocular melanoma.

To donate visit www.qimrberghofer.edu.au/donatenow/

For online donations, please include ‘For Professor Nicholas Hayward’s ocular melanoma research’ in the comments section.

You can also donate via a bank deposit, details in the above link. Please use your surname and initials as the reference and email [email protected] stating “I would like my donation to be directed to Professor Nicholas Hayward’s ocular melanoma research”. Or, you can contact QIMR Berghofer’s Corporate and Community Engagement Coordinator Anna Welch on 07 3845 3747 or at [email protected]