Eye Tumors May Hold Key to Better Understanding Cancer

March 11, 2015

Mary Beth Aronow, MD

Choroidal melanoma with characteristic orange pigment and subretinal fluid

Retina Review
Fall 2014

Each year, patients travel from all over the world to be treated at Wilmer for vision-threatening and life-threatening forms of eye cancer. Mary Beth Aronow, M.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology, has been interested in the field of ophthalmic oncology since attending medical school at Yale University. “The eye is one of the only places where you can see a tumor in its near entirety,” she says. “This provides a unique opportunity to visualize tumors as they are responding to therapy.” Eye tumors are an excellent model for studying the clinical behavior of cancer and for developing improved treatment strategies for patients.

Dr. Aronow came to Wilmer from the Cleveland Clinic where she trained in ophthalmic oncology and most recently from the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, where she pursued fellowship training in medical retina.

At Wilmer, Dr. Aronow expects to be treating the spectrum of intraocular tumors. She hopes to institute a research program to advance our understanding of uveal melanoma. “Once this tumor metastasizes outside of the eye, we do not have good therapies,” she says, adding that better adjuvant therapies for individuals with high risk uveal melanoma are needed. In recent years, many centers have implemented adjuvant treatment trials. “I would like to see Johns Hopkins be among these,” Dr. Aronow says.

Retinoblastoma is the most common primary intraocular tumor in children. Johns Hopkins is one of just a few institutions worldwide that offers intra-arterial chemotherapy, a highly localized form of treatment, to children with this life-threatening condition. Dr. Aronow is pleased to have access to this approach. With excellent available therapies, nearly all children in the US with retinoblastoma survive and retain good vision in many cases.

Watch a video about the Diagnosis and Treatment of Eye Tumors