Uveal Melanoma is a malignant and distressing tumour of the eye. In the UK alone over 500 new cases are diagnosed every year. It is the most common intraocular cancer of adults and is very difficult to treat once it has spread out of the eye. Survival rates for this cancer have not improved in over 30 years, and new therapies are required.
Sheffield is renowned as a major centre for research into these tumours, with over 25 years of outstanding work in this field. Dr Karen Sisley (pictured) is from the Academic Unit of Ophthalmology and Orthoptics in the Department of Oncology and Metabolism at the University of Sheffield and also leads the laboratory research into uveal melanoma.
As a result of funding from National Eye Research Centre, following the charity’s successful appeal on BBC Radio 4, Sheffield will be able to develop a comprehensive approach to the growth of uveal melanomas in culture. The intention is to develop a bank of uveal melanoma cell lines which can be used to study the behaviour of the cancer and to test new treatments. We already know that these cancers have different genetic changes and can have a mixture of cells. By developing a bank of cell lines it will be possible to compare and contrast these essential differences and use the information to improve our understanding of these tumours. Currently, a number of new cultures have been established with several undergoing full genetic characterisation. The first research project based on these cell lines will start in the summer of 2016 as a result of the funding secured by the charity's BBC Radio 4 appeal. Pictured right is the recently recruited tissue coordinator, Claire Greaves, who will develop and maintain uveal melanoma cell types.
Uveal melanoma involves the iris, ciliary body or choroid (collectively referred to as the uvea). Tumours arise from the pigment cells (melanocytes) that reside within the uvea and are made of a mixture of cell types. Pictured left are uveal melanoma cells being grown in culture and showing different cell shapes.
This research need was so important that we decided to apply for a BBC Radio 4 charity appeal to spearhead our campaign to initiate more research at Sheffield. The charity's ambassador, Paralympic medal-winning downhill skier, Jade Etherington, was keen to get involved and delivered our appeal in August 2015. We were amazed at the response. Our initial aim was to raise £13,700 to fund the vitally needed tissue coordinator post described above, but this target was rapidly superseded. The final sum raised was in excess of £67,000 which exceeded all our expectations and funded not only the original tissue coordinator post but also a major new research project. We are enormously grateful to all our wonderful supporters who gave so generously to Jade's appeal.
To hear Jade talking about her BBC Radio 4 Appeal for National Eye Research Centre or to hear her appeal please click here.
Eye research in the UK remains critically underfunded. Less than 2% of all money invested in medical research is directed at eye disease and sight loss. Yet sight loss affects more than two million people in the UK, a number that is set to more than double by 2050. National Eye Research Centre receives no statutory funding from HM Government and is dependent on public donations to fund vital eye research programmes. If you can, please make a donation now to support our work. Thank you.
If you would like to make a donation specifically to fund further research into cancers of the eye please click here