University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
Clinical Associate Professor of Ophthalmology
Irene Heinz-Given and John LaPorte Research Associate
Director of the Retinal Structure and Function Laboratory at the Perelman Center
for Advanced Medicine
Cancer-associated retinopathy (CAR) can develop when circulating anti-tumor antibodies from primary cancers (breast, lung, gynecologic, colon, pancreatic and prostate) cross-react with retinal proteins and cause retinal degeneration and vision loss. Similar forms of retinal damage are associated with the skin cancer, melanoma (melanoma-associated retinopathy, MAR).
Dr. Aleman is an experienced clinician who routinely treats adults and children with inherited retinal degenerations, and is a specialist in retinal imaging. He has seen many patients with cancer associated retinopathy (CAR).
Dr. Aleman is collaborating with Dr. Katherine Uyhazi to develop a combination of gene therapy and cell replacement therapy to restore the damaged retina in models of CAR. The rod and cone photoreceptor cells in the retina are damaged from CAR and their experiments focus on transplanting photoreceptor precursor cells into models of CAR. Other genes and proteins may be needed to support the transplanted cells. The scientists will deliver gene therapy to adjacent cells so the transplanted cells can properly function.
Drs. Aleman and Uyhazi’s fields of expertise complement each another to provide the basic science as well as clinical perspective critical to the success of developing this novel therapy that may give cancer patients the chance to see again.
Tomas S. Aleman, M.D. is a board-certified ophthalmologist specializing in retinal diseases with over 25 years of experience in the phenotypic characterization of human retinal diseases and of small and large animal models of these diseases. He is a world leader and pioneering investigator in the field of inherited retinal degeneration and gene therapy research. He has served as the PI of several multi-center Phase I/II clinical trials, was integral to the development of Luxturna, the first FDA-approved gene therapy for an inherited retinal disease, and has extensive experience in bringing therapies from the bench to the bedside.