Student Awarded Grant for Uveal Melanoma Study


Dr. Morales and Ryan Lee
Dr. Morales and Ryan Lee

Medical student Ryan Lee has been awarded a summer research fellowship grant by Fight for Sight. He is adding a reporter gene to uveal melanoma tumor cell lines using state-of-the-art viral vector technology. Once in the cell line, the gene will be expressed as a luminescent protein that produces an image similar to PET scan in animal models.

Uveal melanoma is the most common intraocular cancer in adults. In about 50% of cases, it metastasizes to the liver, causing death within about two years. By isolating cell lines from patients with this tumor, adding the luminescent gene, and grafting them in mice, researchers will be able to test treatments and progressively observe their effects on tumor growth by tracking luminescence from the cells. This technique will save many research animals.

The idea and preliminary work came from Lee’s mentor, HEI researcher Vanessa Morales Tirado, PhD, MS, assistant professor of Ophthalmology, who has been supervising his work on the project. "Dr. Morales is a fantastic mentor," Lee said. "This is a tremendous opportunity, and I’m excited to see how the project turns out."