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Bascom Palmer Eye Institute

Scientific Meeting Yields Announcements of Research Breakthroughs and Goals for New Clinical Trials

Posted: 02.24.2012

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute Scientific Meeting

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute’s 50th Anniversary Scientific Meeting Yields Announcements of Research Breakthroughs and Goals for New Clinical Trials.

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, the nation’s No.1 ranked eye hospital and part of UHealth – University of Miami Health System, began its golden anniversary year by hosting a global scientific meeting February 2 – 4 in Miami. Nearly 650 ophthalmologists from around the world attended, including 300 Bascom Palmer alumni. With 180 distinguished presenters, topics discussed ranged from research breakthroughs in cataract surgery and gene therapy, to targeted goals of new clinical trials regarding the treatment of glaucoma and optic nerve diseases.

“The tremendous volume of information presented at the Scientific Meeting created a unique collaborative platform, which many of the world’s ophthalmologists can now use to explore new ways of approaching patient care and vision research,” said Eduardo C. Alfonso, M.D., chairman of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, “From advanced medical and surgical treatment options to new trends in refractive surgery and oculoplastics, didactical presentations and interactive panel discussions covered the gamut of both remarkable achievements and exciting possibilities within the ever-changing field of ophthalmology.”

Current clinical trials and research efforts shared at the meeting included:

  • Multiple gene variants, recently identified via two ongoing clinical trials, may help explain why some patients have elevated eye pressure following use of the drug triamcinolone® for treatment of such conditions as swelling of the retina due to diabetes and retinal vein occlusions.
  • Two Phase1, FDA-approved clinical trials have been targeted to potentially protect and restore vision for patients with optic nerve diseases, including glaucoma and optic nerve stroke. Patients in these trials have an implant placed in their eyes that dispenses the test drug, Ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF). Trials will be held through mid 2013.
  • By the spring of 2012, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute will be one of the first centers in the Southeast to have the newly FDA-approved Catalys Precision Laser System®. This system, which combines a femtosecond laser, integrated optical coherence tomography imaging, and breakthrough pattern-scanning technology, will revolutionize cataract surgery by automating capsulotomies (circular incisions made in the lens capsule) and lens fragmentation procedures. Benefits include unequaled precision in circularity, greater comfort for the patient, and less chance of complications.
  • Attendees of the session titled “Update on Amblyopia Treatment” concurred that creation of an integrated, national public health database containing information regarding vision-screening outcomes for children and related referral data, which ophthalmologists, optometrists, and primary care providers could easily access, would help curtail amblyopia – the leading cause of reversible vision loss in Americans under the age of 40.
  • Results of a study done by Bascom Palmer showed a rate of far less than one percent of endophalimitis (severe inflammation of the internal coats of the eye usually caused by infection) following anti-VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) injections for age-related macular degeneration. Notably, there was no significant difference in the rate of infection following injections of either Lucentis® or Avastin®.

A highlight of the meeting’s research presentations focused on ophthalmology now entering the era of treating hereditary retinal degeneration – a goal believed impossible only a few years ago. The first human trial of gene replacement therapy for a molecular subtype of Leber congenital amaurosis (a form of hereditary blindness) is now underway via a team of leading academic institutions across the nation. The trial is being led by Bascom Palmer former faculty member, Samuel G. Jacobson M.D., Ph.D., who is currently a professor of ophthalmology at the Scheie Eye Institute. It is hoped that gene therapy will restore vision in children with congenital blindness, and improve vision of adults with advanced stages of the disease.

The oculoplastics session covered a broad range of topics from cosmetics to orbital malignancy. Three lectures highlighted significant advances in the field of oculoplastics from work that originated at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. David Tse, M.D., professor of ophthalmology, described a novel technique to remove optic nerve glioma (a tumor of the optic nerve that affects mostly children and can lead to blindness if not addressed quickly). The technique preserves vision in the fellow eye and retains eyelid function in the affected eye. Additionally, he reported dramatic results of a recent study he conducted, treating19 patients via a novel approach he created more than 23 years ago called intra-arterial cytoreductive chemotherapy. This innovative method is used to treat adenoid cystic carcinoma of the lacrimal gland (an often lethal orbital malignancy affecting the gland that produces tears). Results of his study demonstrated survival rates of 94 percent at both five- and ten-year follow-ups, compared to 43 percent and 29 percent respectively in patients managed by conventional therapies. Two of his patients treated with this technique have had more than 15 years of disease-free survival, one of them for 22 years.

Also regarding adenoid cystic carcinoma of the lacrimal gland, Sara Wester, M.D., assistant professor of clinical ophthalmology, shared results of research regarding tumor markers of this condition and their role in predicting patient response to chemotherapy. And Chris Alabiad, M.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology, described clinical findings for a rare cause of blockages in the tear drainage system, known as lacrimal sac carcinomas. He explained a surgical technique to remove these deadly cancers, followed by a novel approach to reconstruct any facial defects that may result. Patients undergoing this procedure are cancer free more than 80 percent of the time and receive an excellent cosmetic result.

The three-day meeting concluded with a session titled “Historical Perspectives.” This presentation was given by eight ophthalmologists, all of whom share strong, long-term ties to Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. Together, they shared recaps and memories of the Institute’s founding and legacy. Among those highlighted were Bascom H. Palmer, M.D., for whom the Institute was named; Edward W.D. Norton, M.D., who served as Bascom Palmer’s chairman for more than 30 years; and Victor T. Curtin, M.D., one of Bascom Palmer’s founding ophthalmologists.

About Bascom Palmer

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine – part of UHealth – the University of Miami Health System, is ranked the best eye hospital in the nation, as published in U.S. News & World Report. Having earned an international reputation as one of the premier providers of eye care in the world, Bascom Palmer is also ranked No.1 in patient care and residency training by Ophthalmology Times. As the largest ophthalmic care, research and educational facility in the Southeastern United States, it treats more than 250,000 patients with nearly every ophthalmic condition each year and more than 12,000 surgeries are performed annually. To date, the Institute has trained more than 900 physicians, clinicians and researchers, many of whom now lead academic and clinical ophthalmology centers worldwide. With nearly 80 faculty members and 1,200 staff, the Institute demonstrates exceptional expertise in every ophthalmic subspecialty. Founded in 1962, Bascom Palmer has patient care facilities in Miami, Palm Beach Gardens, Naples, and Plantation, Florida. For additional information, contact the office of marketing and communications at (305) 326-6190, bpeicommunications@med.miami.edu , or visit bascompalmer.org.