AACR-Ocular Melanoma Foundation Career Development Award

The AACR-Ocular Melanoma Foundation Career Development Award represents a joint effort to encourage and support junior faculty to conduct ocular/uveal melanoma research and establish a successful career path in ophthalmology, ocular oncology, uveal melanoma biology, or a similar field.

2022 grantee

Shaheer Khan, DO

Shaheer Khan, DO

Assistant Professor

The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, New York

A Phase I/II Study of BET and MEK inhibition in Advanced Uveal Melanoma

Research

Uveal melanoma is a rare melanoma subtype associated with poor outcomes in the metastatic setting. Virtually all cases harbor activating mutations of GNAQ, GNA11, PLCB4 or CYSLTR2 which result in activation of the MAP kinase pathway, amongst others. In addition, epigenetic dysregulation is known to play a critical role in disease pathogenesis. Based on preclinical data showing that the combination of MEK inhibition and Bromodomain and Extra-terminal (BET) protein inhibition (an epigenetic regulator) is associated with synergistic anti-tumor activity, Dr. Khan will investigate the safety and efficacy of combined BET and MEK inhibition in a multi-center phase I/II clinical trial in patients with metastatic uveal melanoma.  Translational components of this study will assess potential mechanisms of treatment response and resistance using tumor and blood samples from patients. 

Biography

 Dr. Khan received his medical degree from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, after which he completed his training in internal medicine at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital and hematology and medical oncology at Columbia University Medical Center. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Columbia University Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center. His research is focused on the development of novel therapies for the treatment of cutaneous malignancies, including cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma and uveal melanoma.

Acknowledgment of Support

It is a tremendous honor to be the recipient of the 2022 AACR-Ocular Melanoma Foundation Career Development Award, in honor of Robert C. Allen, MD. This award will be critical as I develop my research career and will be an important resource to facilitate the conduct and analysis of this promising clinical trial.

2021 Grantee

Roger Olofsson Bagge, MD, PhD

Roger Olofsson Bagge, MD, PhD

Associate Professor 
Goteborgs Universitet 
Gothenburg, Sweden 
IHP and immunotherapy for uveal melanoma metastasis – the SCANDIUM-II trial 

Research
Due to the failure of current treatment regimens to significantly prolong the survival of patients with uveal melanoma metastases, it is of outmost importance to develop new treatments for this patient group. Dr. Bagge is set to conduct a Phase I clinical trial on the combination of isolated hepatic perfusion with melphalan and the immune checkpoint inhibitors ipilimumab and nivolumab in uveal melanoma patients with liver metastasis. To further delineate the immunological effects of the combined treatment he plans to conduct advanced FACS and genomic analyses of tumour and blood samples from enrolled patients.

Biography
Dr. Bagge is a senior consultant surgeon at Sahlgrenska University Hospital and an associate professor at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. He is responsible for isolated hyperthermic perfusion in Sweden and treats all patients requiring either isolated limb perfusion or isolated hepatic perfusion. Dr. Bagge is also a research group leader at the Wallenberg Center for Molecular and Translational Medicine. He conducts both clinical and preclinical research, with a special focus on treatments for both cutaneous and ocular melanoma.

Acknowledgment of Support
I am truly honored and grateful to be the recipient of the 2021 AACR-Ocular Melanoma Foundation Career Development Award, in honor of Robert C. Allen, MD. This recognition is extremely important in our joint quest to address the unmet need for effective treatments for patients with metastatic ocular melanoma.

2018 Grantee

Alison H. Skalet, MD, PhD

Alison H. Skalet, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor
Oregon Health and Science University
Portland, Oregon
Circulating hybrid cells as a prognostic biomarker for uveal melanoma

Research
Uveal melanoma is an aggressive intraocular cancer associated with high rates of metastatic disease. Although highly predictive molecular prognostic testing for uveal melanoma is available, it requires tumor tissue that is not always accessible via tumor biopsy. Dr. Skalet’s group has identified circulating cells in patients with uveal melanoma that are hybrids of macrophage and tumor cells. She is set to determine the prognostic power of these circulating hybrid cells in uveal melanoma patients undergoing primary treatment and to correlate the levels of these cells with clinical staging and gene expression profile classification.

Biography
Dr. Skalet completed her MD/PhD at the University of Pennsylvania. Following an internship at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, she completed her ophthalmology residency at the University of California, San Francisco, and subspecialty training in ocular oncology and ophthalmic pathology at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU). She is currently an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Casey Eye Institute, OHSU. Her research focuses on early detection of uveal melanoma and vision-threatening complications of radiation treatment.

Acknowledgement of Support
This grant award supports exploration of a novel circulating tumor cell population as a non-invasive prognostic biomarker and source for genetic information in uveal melanoma. Development of this novel biomarker permits pursuit of a line of inquiry with potential to open a new conceptual area in uveal melanoma research.