As part of the Terrace Eye Centre Ocular Oncology Service research connections Dr Bill Glasson and Dr Sunil Warrier organised for overseas Professors to visit. Professor Brian Marr, Director of the Ophthalmic Ocular Oncology Service at the Columbia University Medical Centre, based in New York, along with Professor Richard Carvajal Medical Oncologist and also head of drug trials for the Columbia University Medical Centre.

They were sponsored by the Mater Hospital Foundation and spent a week with researchers from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research and the Translational Research Institute situated on the PA Hospital grounds.  Presentations were given from both centres on their work around both cutaneous melanoma and ocular melanoma (uveal).  Professor Nick Hayward from the QIMR led much of the discussion at his centre focusing on the unique nature of uveal melanoma compared to cutaneous melanoma.  The mutations noted in cutaneous melanoma are very different to those noted in uveal melanoma and therefore the drugs that have been developed to inhibit the growth of cutaneous melanoma do not necessarily make a difference to metastatic uveal melanoma.  Researchers and clinicians from the PA Hospital, based at the Translational Research Institute, gave a complete overview of all the drug trials that they have been involved with for the past decade or more which have shown benefits to patients in many cases.

The frustrating issue for both the doctor and the patient in the area of uveal melanoma is that we still do not have an effective treatment for metastatic uveal melanoma.  We know, for instance, 50% of the patients presenting to our clinic with uveal melanoma will die within five years and by looking at the genomics of the tumour we largely can tell which 50% that will be.  Hence, Dr Warrier and Dr Glasson are very keen through our Queensland Ocular Oncology Service based at Terrace Eye Centre to form collaborative relationships with international researchers as well as our Queensland and Australian cutaneous melanoma experts.  By looking closely at the targeted therapies now used for metastatic cutaneous melanoma, we can hopefully identify different but effective treatments for patients with uveal melanoma.  The answer to our dilemma is to try and identify as many mutations as possible within the uveal melanoma cells, such that we have the ability to deliver targeted therapies along various points of the cell cycle replication.  The ultimate answer for our patients lies in the hands of our researchers and it is through close collaboration that we as clinicians and they as researchers will hopefully be able to look forward to changing the outcome for patients with this dreadful disease.

We would again like to thank the Mater Foundations for their ongoing support for this research.