Zelia Correa, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Clinical Opthamology, has dedicated her career to improving outcomes for patients with eye tumors by championing translational research and evidence-based care.
Correa, an occular oncolgist, has made signifigant strides in the diagnosis and prognosis of ocular tumors. Her pursuit of groundbreaking fields of ocular oncology research and treatment has contributed to a clearer understanding of ocular tumors that, while rare, have largely been considered very unpredictable.
At many medical centers, all eye tumors are treated as if they’re cancerous, without evidence confirming the diagnosis. However, Correa feels passionately that no ocular tumor should be treated without hard evidence since different tumors often lead to different patient outcomes. At UC College of Medicine, ocular tumors are tested through fine needle aspiration on a routine basis to provide the best possible patient care.
“The clinical research has really helped us understand more about how patients do after their treatments, what to expect in terms of outcome, and what the different relevant clinical variables are for us to discuss with the patient,” said Correa.
Correa’s desire to understand the tumors she treats led her to research gene expression profiling in collaboration with researchers at the University of Miami. Her gene expression profiling research helps doctors and researchers determine which uveal melanoma tumors are likely to spread throughout the body and which are not, allowing doctors to give patients truly personalized care.
“I think the biggest impact that the gene expression profile research has had in uveal melanomas is that now we finally have a robust way to determine the prognosis of these patients,” said Correa. “That has allowed us to really give patients the kind of care they need, not overdo it, not underdo it. For me, that has been amazing.”
In partnership with researchers at the University of Miami, Correa is taking her gene expression research to the next level with a phase two ocular oncology study looking into next-generation sequencing for rare ocular tumors.
“I am a very curious clinician and scientist who believes in making a difference for my patients,” said Correa. “I do research not just because I'm curious, but because I hope to bring this research to benefit my patients.”