Innovative diagnostic test catches rare eye cancers

Dr. Grazyna Adamus headshot
Grazyna Adamus, Ph.D.

The COVID pandemic, has posed particular challenges for research activities at Casey, and all of OHSU. Modified operations meant that on-site laboratory activities needed to be limited to the bare essentials. However, one laboratory at the Lanfrom Biomedical Research Building remained in operation without interruption, as it provides essential test results for patients around the world.

That laboratory is the Casey Eye Institute Ocular Immunology Laboratory, operated by Grazyna Adamus, Ph.D. For the past two decades, this CLIA certified laboratory has provided test results for specimens from around the world to support the diagnosis of cancer associated retinopathy (CAR), melanoma associated retinopathy (MAR) and autoimmune retinopathy (AR). These uncommon diseases are very challenging to diagnose, and Dr. Adamus’ laboratory is in demand as the only location in the world offering a special antibody test that allows doctors to identify the cause for vision loss and to begin the search for the undiagnosed cancer.

Keen observations leads to problem solving

Dr. Adamus’ career is a beautiful demonstration of basic science research leading to critical and ongoing improvements in medicine. Trained as a basic scientist working in the special area of immune responses in the eye, Dr. Adamus observed that various circulating antibodies can be the cause of severe vision loss. Many times, these antibodies develop in patients with an isolated and undiagnosed cancer and lead to the autoimmune destruction of retinal cells essential for vision. She then developed the antibody test that is now used exclusively in the Ocular Immunology Lab to diagnose these rare conditions and potentially save a patient’s vision.

With specimens now flooding into Dr. Adamus’ laboratory, she continues to demonstrate enormous commitment in providing this diagnostic test for patients, even through a pandemic.