Molecular Oncogenesis: A Unique Insight'

May 4, 2005

Research in retinoblastoma and uveal melanoma, two rare ocular cancers, extends beyond ocular oncology to all areas of oncology. Discoveries concerning the mechanisms in those two cancers are shedding light on how other tumors function and may aid in the development of therapies and means of predicting metastasis, according to J. William Harbour, MD, who delivered the Cogan Lecture at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.

May 4

- Fort Lauderdale, FL - Research in retinoblastoma and uveal melanoma, two rare ocular cancers, extends beyond ocular oncology to all areas of oncology. Discoveries concerning the mechanisms in those two cancers are shedding light on how other tumors function and may aid in the development of therapies and means of predicting metastasis, according to J. William Harbour, MD, who delivered the Cogan Lecture at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.

Dr. Harbour, associate professor, and director of the ocular oncology service at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, is the winner of the 2005 Cogan Award for his significant contributions to the understanding of the molecular regulation of the cell cycle in ocular tumors. The Cogan Award recognizes a researcher 40 years or younger at the time of his nomination who has made important contributions to research in ophthalmology and visual science directly related to disorders of the human eye or the visual system.

Dr. Harbour described recent discoveries in oncology research including the activity of the retinoblastoma (Rb) gene mutation, which is present in many other cancers. One important avenue of research that he discussed is the differences in the activity of the Rb protein.

The real revolution started, he pointed out, when investigators began looking at the Rb protein. Virtually every cancer studied has some defect that activates the Rb protein. Further research showed that the Rb protein is regulated differently.

Melanoma and most solid tumors partially inactivate Rb and the tumors proliferate slowly with a low rate of apoptosis; conversely, retinoblastomas, small cell lung cancer, and high-grade melanomas delete Rb and there is rapid proliferation of the tumor with a high rate of apoptosis.

"Retinoblastoma and uveal melanoma provide unique important insights into molecular angiogenesis and have implications far beyond their incidence for cancer biology, developmental biology, and other areas of vision research. Rb research, I believe, will continue to have a profound impact on clinical care both in the area of cancer diagnosis and treatment, hopefully to improve survival, if we can harness the Rb pathway and use it in a controlled way," he concluded.