Most people have heard of melanoma, which is more commonly referred to as skin cancer. But did you know that melanoma is also the most common cancer of the eye?
There are many types of cancers that can affect the eye and they are broken down into two types: primary eye cancer and secondary eye cancer. Primary eye cancer, or cancer that starts in the eye, is an uncommon disease. In fact, less than 3500 adults in the United States are diagnosed each year with this type of cancer. Secondary eye cancer, which occurs when cancer spreads to the eye from another part of the body, is more common.
As one might imagine, the side effects of eye cancer can be life altering. Even small melanomas can impair vision and cause issues in peripheral eyesight. Growing melanomas can cause glaucoma, or growing pressure within the eye, which is accompanied by pain and blurry vision. Large melanomas can tragically cause total vision loss.
Thankfully, a powerful duo of National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR)-funded experts has set out on a mission to uncover ways in which a patient’s sight can be restored.
Jean Bennett, Ph.D., M.D., is the F.M. Kirby Professor of Ophthalmology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. As a world leader and pioneering physician-scientist in the field of retinal (eye) gene therapy, Dr. Bennett has developed the first FDA-approved gene therapy for a rare genetic disease that causes blindness in children. This extraordinary accomplishment has paved the way for further advancements in its approach to treat other eye diseases and other genetic diseases.
Katherine Uyhazi, Ph.D., M.D. is an ophthalmologist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Scheie Eye Institute specializing in retinal diseases. Her research focuses on gene and cell replacement therapies in retinal diseases.
With NFCR support, Drs. Bennett and Uyhazi are collaborating to develop gene and cell replacement therapy in cancer associated retinopathy (CAR), a retinal disease that may occur in patients with various types of cancer. CAR is a rare but tragic syndrome that can lead to permanent vision loss. CAR is most commonly associated with small cell lung cancer, and has also been identified in patients with breast, lung, gynecologic, colon, pancreatic and prostate cancer. Similar forms of retinal degeneration are associated with melanoma (melanoma associated retinopathy; MAR). Together, this powerful duo is on track to help eye cancer patients as well as patients of other eye-related diseases.
Drs. Bennett and Uyhazi are two powerful examples of pioneering women in science and business. NFCR is proud to support their work as well as the work of women driving game-changing discoveries in the world of cancer, including the 2020 finalists of the AIM-HI Women’s Venture Competition. This first-of-its-kind initiative combines extensive opportunities for coaching, networking and financial resources exclusively to female-created and managed oncology start-ups.
Additional Reads You May Enjoy:
Stay connected with us! Receive our monthly e-newsletter and blogs featuring stories of inspiration, support resources, cancer prevention tips and more. Sign up here.