May 5, 2015

Kellogg offers clinical trial to investigate new drug to treat cancer around the eye

ANN ARBOR—Basal cell carcinoma (BCCA) is the most common type of cancer, affecting approximately 750,000 people in the United States every year. BCCA on the eyelids can usually be cured through a specialized type of surgery, termed Mohs micrographic surgery (usually performed by a specialty-trained dermatologist), followed by oculoplastic reconstruction of the eyelids and surrounding tissues. However, when the cancer invades more deeply, it can lead to severe facial deformity, loss of the eye, and/or loss of the tear drainage system.

Vismodegib is a new drug recently approved by the FDA for treatment of particularly advanced or aggressive BCCA. Its use by Kellogg surgeons for aggressive BCCA involving tissues around the eye has demonstrated significant promise. Alon Kahana, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, is now leading a research team that aims to determine whether vismodegib can be useful for preserving vital tissues around the eye, to preserve visual function, along with basic and translational research on the response of cancer tissue to the drug over time. The clinical trial, termed VISORB (for VISmodegib for ORbital and periocular Basal cell carcinoma), was recently awarded a competitive research grant from Genentech, the manufacturer of vismodegib, which will also provide the drug for the clinical trial. Additional funding was obtained from the University of Michigan Head and Neck Oncology Program, the Kellogg Eye Center, and the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. The goal of the trial is to test whether use of this new drug will lead to improved ophthalmic outcomes in patients suffering from BCCAs, and to identify markers for tumor response.

“Advanced basal cell carcinoma is commonly found around the eye and can be both disfiguring and blinding,” says Dr. Kahana. “A clinical trial is needed to study how this innovative new drug can be used to treat this cancer while preserving visual function. Given how common basal cell carcinoma is, and its potential impact on vision, I’m pleased that such an important trial will be based at Kellogg and the University of Michigan.”

The study will likely begin enrolling patients in the summer of 2015, with the goal of 50 patients enrolled over 4 years. Participation in the study is for one year after initiation of the drug treatment.

For more information, contact clinical research coordinator Sonal Trivedi, (734)615-8560, or Karen King, (734)936-8681,

Last Modified: Thursday, 02-Jul-2015 14:31:20 EDT