David H. Abramson, MD -- Chief, Ophthalmic Oncology Service, Department of Surgery

David H. Abramson, MD

Ophthalmic Oncologist

My Role at MSK

Areas of Expertise

My Specialties

  • Retinoblastoma
  • Ocular Melanomas (Melanoma of the Eye)
  • Uveal Melanoma

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About Me

What I Do at MSK
  • Chief, Ophthalmic Oncology Service, Department of Surgery
Get To Know Me

I am a board-certified ophthalmologist with specialty training in ophthalmic oncology. Ophthalmic oncologists are ophthalmologists who specialize in diagnosing and treating cancer on the surface of the eye, in the eye, and in the tissues around the eye (the lid and orbit). I have a joint appointment in the Departments of Surgery, Pediatrics, and Radiation Oncology.

I am also Chief of the Ophthalmic Oncology Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK). This is the only service dedicated to ophthalmic oncology in a cancer hospital in the United States. Because of our close association with specialists in pediatrics, genetics, interventional radiology, radiation oncology, diagnostic radiology, and medicine, we are able to offer coordinated, state-of-the-art care. Our patients have access to novel therapies and clinical trials not available anywhere else in the country.

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Ophthalmic cancers are rare. They are usually diagnosed without performing a biopsy, so experience is very important in getting the correct diagnosis every time. At MSK, we use the latest diagnostic digital imaging and ultrasound tools. These include standardized A and B scans, high-frequency anterior segment ultrasound (also called ultrasound biomicroscopy), and optical coherence tomography.

The most common primary ophthalmic cancer affecting adults is melanoma in the eye. This is also known as uveal melanoma or ocular melanoma. We offer sophisticated diagnostic and treatment options for this cancer. These include brachytherapy (sealed radioactive material that’s surgically placed directly onto the eye) with radioactive iodine, proton beam radiation, and surgery. Our medical physicists and brachytherapy team are internationally respected for their expertise in delivering customized treatments for each patient. In collaboration with MSK’s melanoma team, we offer clinical trials for melanoma of the eye that has spread to another part of the body. Finally, a drug has been approved for patients with metastatic uveal melanoma (Tabentafusp), and our hospital pioneered trials that led to the FDA approval in 2022.

As a member of the MSK Kids team, I treat patients with a pediatric eye tumor called retinoblastoma. Dating back to 1914, our retinoblastoma center is the longest continually operating center of its kind in the world. We have the longest follow-up of the largest number of patients. We have a modern examination suite dedicated to the care of children with retinoblastoma. It features all the latest equipment needed to diagnose and treat retinoblastoma in the most effective way possible.

I have introduced many new treatments for retinoblastoma that have been adopted by other cancer hospitals. In 2006, we pioneered the use of high-concentration, low-dose chemotherapy (also called ophthalmic artery chemosurgery or intra-arterial chemotherapy). This approach uses a catheter (thin, flexible tube) the size of angel hair pasta that is placed in the groin to deliver chemotherapy through the blood vessels of the stomach, chest, and neck directly into the blood vessel of the eye. Just a few drops of the chemotherapy have the power to cure the cancer while retaining the vision and health of the eye. In the past, we removed one or both eyes in 95 percent of children with retinoblastoma, but now, we can avoid removing the eye 95 percent of the time.

MSK has the most experience with this technique in the world, and we have since taught it to doctors around the globe. Our studies on the long-term complications of retinoblastoma have been published extensively in the Journal of the American Medical Association, as well as in eye disease and cancer journals.

Altogether, high-concentration, low-dose chemotherapy is the most significant treatment advance in the field of retinoblastoma, and most of the patients who see me come to me for it. I take the time to answer patients’ questions about this treatment strategy, which requires the use of anesthesia but can be given on an outpatient basis.

MSK is also the only cancer care institution in the world that is using cell-free DNA from blood to aid in the diagnosis and management of retinoblastoma in and outside of the eye. Using MSK-ACCESS® (which stands for “Analysis of Circulating cfDNA to Evaluate Somatic Status”), a noninvasive liquid biopsy test developed at MSK, we can not only understand the genetic makeup of a patient’s cancer, but also understand whether a patient’s tumor is active. This tool offers a painless and precise method to determine if treatment for retinoblastoma is working.

Additionally, we are the first to use high-dose intravitreal topotecan, a chemotherapy that is well-tolerated by the eye, for the treatment of metastatic retinoblastoma. This approach is astonishingly effective and comes with no ocular toxicity.

I have published more than 800 books, chapters, original articles, scientific reviews, audiotapes, and videotapes, and I was the editor of the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s instruction book on ophthalmic oncology. I have delivered more than 500 lectures worldwide, including those in France, Italy, England, Switzerland, Israel, China, Hong Kong, Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Africa, and India.

Among the many honors I have received are awards from the Swiss Society of Ophthalmology, the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, the Helen Keller Services for the Blind, and the New York State Ophthalmological Society. I have received many teaching awards. I have also received the Honor Award, the Senior Honor Award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Outside of MSK, I have served as First Marshal (President) of my Harvard College class for more than 50 years. Following my induction as First Marshal in 1990, I have gone on to help plan the commencement ceremonies while representing my class at a variety of Harvard events. In 1995, I had the honor of escorting theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking when he received his honorary degree at Harvard. I wrote about the experience in an article titled “Saving Stephen Hawking,” that was published in HARVARD Magazine in 2018.

My Role at MSK

An ophthalmic (of-THAL-mik) oncologist is a cancer doctor with special training in eye cancers. This includes eye melanoma and retinoblastoma.

Areas of Expertise

My Specialties

  • Retinoblastoma
  • Ocular Melanomas (Melanoma of the Eye)
  • Uveal Melanoma
  • Orbital Tumors
  • Ophthalmic Oncology
Education & Honors

Education

  • MD, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Residencies

  • Ophthalmology - Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center

Awards and Honors

  • Castle Connolly: America’s Top Doctor (2024)
  • Top Doctors New York Metro Area, Castle Connolly (2023)
  • Castle Connolly: America's Top Doctors (2000-2023)
  • Hall of Fame Honoree: Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation (2019), Retina Hall of Fame, Harvard University Athletic Club Hall of Fame (1993)
  • Charter Member, Retina Hall of Fame (2017)
  • Medal of Honor, Center for Sight (2013)
  • Dominic Purpura Award, Albert Einstein College of Medicine (2012)
  • Bjerrum Medal, Danish Ophthalmological Society (2012)
  • The Alcon Research Institute Award, Alcon Research Institute (2011)
  • Stallard Medal, Cambridge University (2009)
  • Honor, Senior Honor, and Lifetime Achievement Awards, American Academy of Ophthalmology (1982, 1990, 2008)
  • Mildred Weisenfeld Award for Excellence in Ophthalmology, ARVO Annual Meeting (2004)
  • Hobart Lerner Award, New York State Ophthalmological Society (2001)
  • Honoree, The Manhattan League of Helen Keller Services for the Blind (2000)
  • Best Doctors in New York, New York Magazine (2000-2020)
  • Franceschetti Medal, Swiss Ophthalmological Society (1997)

Fellowships

  • Ophthalmology - Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center

Board Certifications

  • Ophthalmology

Insurance Information

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MSK has a tentative agreement with Cigna to continue coverage in 2024.

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Non-Participating Plans with Out of Network Benefits

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NYC Medicare Advantage Plus for City Employees

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TBD

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Oxford

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PPO, EPO

World Trade Center Health Program (WTC)

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State Government

Qualcare

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PPO, POS, HMO

Tricare

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UMR

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United Healthcare

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Contact and Location

Dr. Abramson sees patients at one location.

Office Phone
Location
New York, NY
1275 York Avenue New York NY 10065

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Colleagues

Doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering work as teams, with specialists from all different areas. This allows us to consider all your needs together, and to give you the best possible care.

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Clinical Trials

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Find a Clinical Trial for You

Memorial Sloan Kettering's doctors and scientists are constantly developing new treatments for cancer. MSK is typically running hundreds of clinical trials at a given time.

You may be able to participate in a clinical trial even if you are new to MSK. Search our online directory to find trial information and see more about who can participate.

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Research and Publications

Miguez S, Lee Y, Chan AX, Demkowicz P, Jones B, Long CP, Abramson DH, Bosenberg M, Sznol M, Kluger H, Goldbaum MH, Francis JH, Pointdujour-Lim R, Bakhoum MF. Validation of the prognostic utility of the gene expression profiling test in patients with uveal melanoma. Ophthalmology. 2023 Feb 3:S0161-6420(23)00064-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2023.01.020. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 36739981.

Abramson DH, Mandelker DL, Brannon AR, Dunkel IJ, Benayed R, Berger MF, Arcila ME, Ladanyi M, Friedman DN, Jayakumaran G, Diosdado MS, Robbins MA, Haggag-Lindgren D, Shukla N, Walsh MF, Kothari P, Tsui DWY, Francis JH. Mutant-RB1 circulating tumor DNA in the blood of unilateral retinoblastoma patients: What happens during enucleation surgery: A pilot study. PLoS One. 2023 Feb 3;18(2):e0271505. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0271505. PMID: 36735656; PMCID: PMC9897525.

Marathe PH, Dunkel IJ, Francis JH, Antal Z, Gobin YP, Abramson DH, Friedman DN. Biochemical measures of ovarian function in female survivors of retinoblastoma treated with intra-arterial melphalan: an initial report. Ophthalmic Genet. 2022 Dec;43(6):806-808. doi: 10.1080/13816810.2022.2132516. PMID: 36695494.

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Francis JH, Barker CA, Brannon AR, Canestraro J, Robbins M, Swartzwelder CE, Levine S, Law C, Berger MF, Shoushtari A, Abramson DH. Detectability of Plasma-Derived Circulating Tumor DNA Panel in Patients Undergoing Primary Treatment for Uveal Melanoma. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2022 Dec 1;63(13):17. doi: 10.1167/iovs.63.13.17. PMID: 36525262; PMCID: PMC9766787.

Abramson DH, Shields CL. Re: Tomar et al.: American Joint Committee on Cancer Ophthalmic Oncology Task Force. High-risk pathologic features based on presenting findings in advanced intraocular retinoblastoma: a multicenter, international data-sharing American Joint Committee on Cancer Study (Ophthalmology. 2022;129:923-932) and Tomar et al.: American Joint Committee on Cancer Ophthalmic Oncology Task Force. Metastatic death based on presenting features and treatment for advanced intraocular retinoblastoma: a multicenter registry-based study. (Ophthalmology. 2022;129:933-945). Ophthalmology. 2023 Mar;130(3):e11-e12. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2022.10.018. Epub 2022 Nov 25. PMID: 36443123.

Lopez J, Qin N, Woods R, Golden M, Spatz H, Shah J, Wexler LH, Randazzo J, Wolden SL, Abramson DH. Orbital Exenteration and Brachytherapy for the Treatment of Pediatric, Fusion-positive, Recurrent Rhabdomyosarcoma. Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open. 2022 Oct 7;10(10):e4581. doi: 10.1097/GOX.0000000000004581. PMID: 36225848; PMCID: PMC9543036.

Yeoh CB, Seier KP, Francis J, Abramson DH, Tan KS, Tollinche LE. Perioperative corneal injury: An unseen casualty of COVID-19. JOJ Ophthalmol. 2022 Apr;9(2):555757. doi: 10.19080/jojo.2022.09.555757. Epub 2022 Apr 26. PMID: 36092687; PMCID: PMC9455800.

Abramson DH, Dunkel IJ, Francis JH. Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Metastatic Retinoblastoma. J Pediatr Ophthalmol Strabismus. 2022 Aug 8:1. doi: 10.3928/01913913-20220623-02. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35938642.

Abramson DH, Gobin YP, Francis JH. Good Vision in Retinoblastoma Treated With Intra-arterial Chemotherapy and Laser in the Papillomacular Bundle. J Pediatr Ophthalmol Strabismus. 2022 Aug 8:1. doi: 10.3928/01913913-20220629-01. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35938638.

Farouk Sait S, Bernot MR, Klein E, Abramson DH, Francis JH, Gilheeney S, Karajannis MA, Spitzer B, Wolden S, Dunkel IJ, Kernan NA. Lack of complete response pretransplant is not associated with inferior overall survival for stage 4a metastatic retinoblastoma. Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2023 Jan;70(1):e29921. doi: 10.1002/pbc.29921. Epub 2022 Aug 8. PMID: 35934994; PMCID: PMC9701149.

Foulsham W, Edghill BZ, Julia Canestraro OD, Makker V, Konner J, Abramson DH, Francis JH. Central retinal vein occlusion in the setting of fibroblast growth factor receptor inhibition. Am J Ophthalmol Case Rep. 2022 Jul 8;27:101657. doi: 10.1016/j.ajoc.2022.101657. PMID: 35845747; PMCID: PMC9284313.

Dunkel IJ, Piao J, Chantada GL, Banerjee A, Abouelnaga S, Buchsbaum JC, Merchant TE, Granger MM, Jubran RF, Weinstein JL, Saguilig L, Abramson DH, Krailo MD, Rodriguez-Galindo C, Chintagumpala MM. Intensive Multimodality Therapy for Extraocular Retinoblastoma: A Children’s Oncology Group Trial (ARET0321). J Clin Oncol. 2022 Nov 20;40(33):3839-3847. doi: 10.1200/JCO.21.02337. Epub 2022 Jul 12. PMID: 35820112; PMCID: PMC9671757.

Francis JH, Folberg R, Abramson DH, Panarelli JF. Advanced Congenital Glaucoma with Corneal Staphyloma. Ophthalmol Glaucoma. 2022 Sep-Oct;5(5):475. doi: 10.1016/j.ogla.2022.05.007. Epub 2022 Jul 1. PMID: 35788339.

Carnevale JA, Goldberg J, Kocharian G, Rivera M, Giantini Larsen A, Garton A, Ramos A, Francis JH, Abramson DH, Pierre Gobin Y. Intra-arterial chemotherapy for retinoblastoma. J Neurointerv Surg. 2023 Mar;15(3):303-304. doi: 10.1136/neurintsurg-2022-018957. Epub 2022 May 18. PMID: 35584909.

Francis JH, Canestraro J, Abramson DH, Barker CA, Shoushtari AN. Combination intravitreous melphalan and bevacizumb for cutaneous metastatic melanoma to the vitreous and retina. Am J Ophthalmol Case Rep. 2022 Apr 9;26:101519. doi: 10.1016/j.ajoc.2022.101519. PMID: 35464680; PMCID: PMC9020100.

Schaiquevich P, Francis JH, Cancela MB, Carcaboso AM, Chantada GL, Abramson DH. Treatment of Retinoblastoma: What Is the Latest and What Is the Future. Front Oncol. 2022 Apr 1;12:822330. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2022.822330. PMID: 35433448; PMCID: PMC9010858.

Abramson DH. Cell Free DNA (cfDNA) in the Blood of Retinoblastoma Patients The Robert M. Ellsworth Lecture. Ophthalmic Genet. 2022 Dec;43(6):731-735. doi: 10.1080/13816810.2021.2004433. Epub 2022 Apr 5. PMID: 35382685; PMCID: PMC9532458.

Del Sole MJ, Clausse M, Nejamkin P, Cancela B, Del Río M, Lamas G, Lubieniecki F, Francis JH, Abramson DH, Chantada G, Schaiquevich P. Ocular and systemic toxicity of high-dose intravitreal topotecan in rabbits: Implications for retinoblastoma treatment. Exp Eye Res. 2022 May;218:109026. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2022.109026. Epub 2022 Mar 8. PMID: 35276184; PMCID: PMC9502017.

Foulsham W, Abramson DH, Francis JH. Choroidal Nevus Regression in the Setting of Checkpoint Inhibition Immunotherapy. Retina. 2022 May 1;42(5):e25-e26. doi: 10.1097/IAE.0000000000003467. PMID: 35250013; PMCID: PMC9078091.

Francis JH, Winebrake JP, Abramson DH. Uveal lymphoid hyperplasia: treatment with combination antibiotics and steroids. Br J Ophthalmol. 2022 Feb 21:bjophthalmol-2021-319483. doi: 10.1136/bjophthalmol-2021-319483. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35190399.

Francis JH, Berry D, Abramson DH, Barker CA, Bergstrom C, Demirci H, Engelbert M, Grossniklaus H, Hubbard B, Iacob CE, Jaben K, Kurli M, Postow MA, Wolchok JD, Kim IK, Wells JR. Intravitreous Cutaneous Metastatic Melanoma in the Era of Checkpoint Inhibition: Unmasking and Masquerading. Ophthalmology. 2020 Feb;127(2):240-248. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2019.09.018. Epub 2019 Sep 24.

Durham BH, Lopez Rodrigo E, Picarsic J, Abramson D, Rotemberg V, De Munck S, Pannecoucke E, Lu SX, Pastore A, Yoshimi A, Mandelker D, Ceyhan-Birsoy O, Ulaner GA, Walsh M, Yabe M, Petrova-Drus K, Arcila ME, Ladanyi M, Solit DB, Berger MF, Hyman DM, Lacouture ME, Erickson C, Saganty R, Ki M, Dunkel IJ, Santa-María López V, Mora J, Haroche J, Emile JF, Decaux O, Geissmann F, Savvides SN, Drilon A, Diamond EL, Abdel-Wahab O. Activating mutations in CSF1R and additional receptor tyrosine kinases in histiocytic neoplasms. Nat Med. 2019 Dec;25(12):1839-1842. doi: 10.1038/s41591-019-0653-6. Epub 2019 Nov 25.

Banerjee SC, Pottenger E, Petriccione M, Chou JF, Ford JS, Sklar CA, Robison LL, Kleinerman RA, Oeffinger KC, Francis JH, Abramson DH, Dunkel IJ, Friedman DN. Impact of enucleation on adult retinoblastoma survivors’ quality of life: A qualitative study of survivors’ perspectives. Palliat Support Care. 2019 Nov 8:1-10. doi: 10.1017/S1478951519000920. [Epub ahead of print]

Kleinerman RA, Schonfeld SJ, Sigel BS, Wong-Siegel JR, Gilbert ES, Abramson DH, Seddon JM, Tucker MA, Morton LM. Bone and Soft-Tissue Sarcoma Risk in Long-Term Survivors of Hereditary Retinoblastoma Treated With Radiation. J Clin Oncol. 2019 Dec 10;37(35):3436-3445. doi: 10.1200/JCO.19.01096. Epub 2019 Oct 17.

Qureshi S, Francis JH, Haque SS, Dunkel IJ, Souweidane MM, Friedman DN, Abramson DH. Magnetic Resonance Imaging Screening for Trilateral Retinoblastoma: The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Experience 2006-2016. Ophthalmol Retina. 2019 Oct 31. pii: S2468-6530(19)30605-0. doi: 10.1016/j.oret.2019.10.010. [Epub ahead of print]

Zauderer MG, Jayakumaran G, DuBoff M, Zhang L, Francis JH, Abramson DH, Cercek A, Nash GM, Shoushtari A, Chapman P, D’Angelo S, Arnold AG, Siegel B, Fleischut MH, Ni A, Rimner A, Rusch VW, Adusumilli PS, Travis W, Sauter JL, Zehir A, Mandelker D, Ladanyi M, Robson M. Prevalence and Preliminary Validation of Screening Criteria to Identify Carriers of Germline BAP1 Mutations. J Thorac Oncol. 2019 Nov;14(11):1989-1994. doi: 10.1016/j.jtho.2019.07.002. Epub 2019 Jul 16.

Farouk Sait S, Haque S, Karimi S, Rebeiz KJ, Francis JH, Marr BP, Abramson DH, Souweidane MM, Dunkel IJ. A Potential Role For Apparent Diffusion Coefficient in the Diagnosis of Trilateral Retinoblastoma. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol. 2019 Jun 27. doi: 10.1097/MPH.0000000000001523. [Epub ahead of print]

Abramson DH, Francis JH. Pseudomelanoma (with Cataract) in a Child Caused by Amniocentesis. Ophthalmology. 2019 Apr;126(4):590. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2019.01.025. No abstract available.

Francis JH, Barker CA, Yin VT, Carvajal RD, Chapman P, Abramson DH, Gobin YP. Chemoreduction of Orbital Recurrence of Uveal Melanoma by Intra-Arterial Melphalan. Ocul Oncol Pathol. 2019 Apr;5(3):186-189. doi: 10.1159/000490061. Epub 2018 Oct 9.

Abramson DH, Dhar LS, Francis JH. Iris Mass in a 2-Year-Old. Ophthalmol Retina. 2018 Sep;2(9):905. doi: 10.1016/j.oret.2018.06.010. Epub 2018 Sep 4. No abstract available.

Publications on PubMed

Visit PubMed for a full listing of Dr. Abramson’s journal articles. Pubmed is an online index of research papers and other articles from the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.

See all on PubMed

Disclosures

Doctors and faculty members often work with pharmaceutical, device, biotechnology, and life sciences companies, and other organizations outside of MSK, to find safe and effective cancer treatments, to improve patient care, and to educate the health care community.

MSK requires doctors and faculty members to report (“disclose”) the relationships and financial interests they have with external entities. As a commitment to transparency with our community, we make that information available to the public.

David H. Abramson discloses the following relationships and financial interests:

  • The Fund for Ophthalmic Knowledge Inc.
    Fiduciary Role / Position

If you’re a patient at MSK and would like more information about your doctor’s external relationships, please talk with your doctor.

The information published here is for a specific annual disclosure period. There may be differences between information on this and other public sites as a result of different reporting periods and/or the various ways relationships and financial interests are categorized by organizations that publish such data.


This page and data include information for a specific MSK annual disclosure period (January 1, 2022 through disclosure submission in spring 2023). This data reflects interests that may or may not still exist. This data is updated annually.

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