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Eye Cancer Epigenetics Laboratory

Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute (ISCI), Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center (SCCC)

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Investigator / Contact Person Stefan Kurtenbach, Ph.D.


The Eye Cancer Epigenetics Laboratory at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute is a collaboration with the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute and the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, all at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Uveal melanoma derives from melanocytes in the eye, and is the most common eye cancer in adults. Despite decades of research, uveal melanoma remains very hard to treat and is almost uniformly lethal once metastasis emerge, due to the lack of good therapeutic options. Retinoblastoma is cancer found mainly in infants and young children, which can metastasize to the brain if left untreated. Current treatment approaches are unspecific, and eye removal is still necessary in some cases. Novel treatment approaches for uveal melanoma and retinoblastoma are needed. The Eye Cancer Epigenetics Laboratory investigates how mutations found in these cancers lead to epigenomic changes driving tumor evolution and aggressiveness. A mix of wet-lab and bioinformatic techniques are being used. Results from these studies are used to design new treatment angles. To model metastasis, organoids are being used, which are differentiated from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), and offer an exciting new way of investigating tumor development in a heterogeneous, multi-cellular environment.

  • Developing novel treatment strategies for uveal melanoma

  • Characterization of retinoblastoma invasion and metastatic spread

  • Organoid development