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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. Eligibility is limited to junior faculty who, at the start of the grant term, will have completed their most recent doctoral degree or medical residency within the past 11 years. The research proposed for funding must be translational or clinical in nature and must have direct applicability and relevance to ocular/uveal 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

Scientific Statement of Research
Uveal melanoma is an aggressive intraocular cancer associated with high rates of metastatic disease. Highly predictive molecular prognostic testing for uveal melanoma is available but requires tumor tissue that is not always accessible via tumor biopsy. Dr. Skalet’s research collaborator discovered and characterized in a variety of human cancers a novel circulating cell that is a hybrid of macrophages and tumor cells. Dr. Skalet’s group has recently identified these novel circulating hybrid cells in patients with uveal melanoma. The proposed studies will investigate the prognostic power of circulating hybrid cells in patients undergoing primary treatment for uveal melanoma and correlate their levels with clinical staging and gene expression profile classification. Successful completion of the proposed study will provide a new, non-invasive approach to assess metastatic risk in uveal melanoma patients, and open the door to longitudinal monitoring to assist in early detection of metastatic disease and evaluation of treatment response.

Dr. Skalet is an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Casey Eye Institute, Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU). She received her BS at Tulane University before matriculating into the MD/PhD program at the University of Pennsylvania. She completed her PhD in immunology and received her MD in 2006. Following an internship at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Dr. Skalet completed her ophthalmology residency at the University of California, San Francisco and subspecialty training in ocular oncology and ophthalmic pathology at 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.