Taking a Holistic Approach to Eye Cancer Care and Research
For J. William Harbour, M.D., and Zelia M. Correa, M.D.,Ph.D., finding new therapies for dangerous eye cancers is truly a labor of love.
The husband and wife team take a coordinated approach to treating adult and pediatric patients in Bascom Palmer’s Ocular Oncology Service, while pursuing new discoveries in its leading-edge ocular oncology laboratory.
“Bascom Palmer’s unique clinical and research programs and our stellar faculty allow us to deliver the best possible patient care, while making new findings that improve patient outcomes,” said Harbour, professor of ophthalmology, director of ocular oncology, vice chair for translational research, and the Mark J. Daily Chairin Ophthalmology.
Drawing on Bascom Palmer’s exceptional resources – including advanced imaging equipment and one of the world’s top eye pathology laboratories – the Florida Lions Ocular Pathology Laboratory under the direction of Sander Dubovy, M.D., – Harbour and Correa are leading one of the world’s elite ocular oncology referral centers.
A world renown ocular cancer specialist with extensive surgical experience, Correa joined Bascom Palmer as professor of ophthalmology and co-director of ocular oncology in 2020. She previously held the prestigious Tom Clancy Professorship at Wilmer Eye Institute of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
“Dr. Correa’s career has been characterized by outstanding accomplishments, not only in the field of ocular oncology, but also in vitreoretinal surgery, ophthalmic pathology, medical education,and leadership development,” said Eduardo C. Alfonso, M.D., director of Bascom Palmer and the Kathleen and Stanley J. Glaser Chair in Ophthalmology.
Correa’s current research focuses on the use of artificial intelligence to distinguish benign from malignant ocular tumors based on imaging characteristics.
Along with their roles at Bascom Palmer, Harbour and Correa also serve on the faculty of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, where Harbour is associate director for basic science. He is also a member of the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute at the University of Miami.
“These close ties with Sylvester allow us to provide coordinated holistic care for our ocular cancer patients and to initiate highly innovative clinical trials to benefit patients,” said Correa.
In keeping with that comprehensive approach, Harbour and Correa collaborate with Sylvester specialists, such as Jose Lutzky, M.D., professor of medicine and director of the Cutaneous Oncology Services; and Lynn G. Feun, M.D., professor of medicine and co-leader of the Melanoma Site Disease Group.
“We are in a unique position to support our patients from the initial diagnosis through surgery, medication or radiation treatment and follow-up care if issues arise later in life,” said Correa. “No other ocular oncology center in the U.S. has the same resources and ability to provide coordinated support to patients whose disease may have spread beyond the eye.
Improving clinical outcomes since joining Bascom Palmer in2012, Harbour has worked tirelessly to create a unique fusion of world-class patient care and cutting-edge research to revolutionize the care and treatment of patients with eye cancers such as uveal melanoma in adults and retinoblastoma in children.
“Our laboratory takes a wide approach to research, looking at genetics, genomics, cell biology, computational biology, developmental biology, and bioinformatics to find new therapies for patients with eye cancer,” said Harbour, who has recruited and mentored a rising cadre of research stars at Bascom Palmer, including research assistant professors Stefan Kurtenbach, Ph.D., and Daniel Pelaez, Ph.D., who also serves as scientific director of the Dr. Nasser Al-Rashid Orbital Vision Research Center.
In the past decade, Bascom Palmer’s research has advanced the development of treatments for ocular cancers.
“Our team developed the most widely used prognostic test for uveal melanoma and discovered a new immunotherapy target for patients with this cancer,” said Harbour, who is now enrolling patients into a clinical trial to investigate a promising new immune checkpoint inhibitor.
“Our excellence in patient care allows us to recruit participants from around the world into our research program, helping us turn laboratory discoveries into new treatments,” he said.
Dr. Correa established regular visits to see patients at the Naples Bascom Palmer Eye Institute beginning 2020.