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Bita Esmaeli, MD, FACS

Present Title & Affiliation

Primary Appointment

Professor of Ophthalmology, Department of Plastic Surgery, Division of Surgery, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX

Dual/Joint/Adjunct Appointment

Adjunct Professor of Ophthalmology, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX

Bio Statement





Dr Bita Esmaeli is a Professor of Ophthalmology in the Department of Plastic Surgery at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, where she has had an orbital oncology and oncologic ophthalmic plastic surgery practice since 1998.

Dr Esmaeli’s practice focus is surgical treatment of orbital tumors, lacrimal gland carcinomas, eyelid cancers, melanoma of eyelid and conjunctiva, and reconstructive surgery in the periocular region including lacrimal surgery.

Dr Esmaeli has authored over 180 peer-reviewed manuscripts, over 55 invited articles and book chapters, has spearheaded several clinical trials, and has participated in numerous research protocols at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. She has received many prestigious awards and honors including the Merrill Reeh Pathology Award and the Research Award from the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the American Academy of Ophthalmology Senior Achievement Award, Best Doctors in America, and Top Doctors Award. Dr Esmaeli is a member of the American Ophthalmologic Society.

Dr Esmaeli 's research interests include molecular signature of ocular and orbital tumors, tissue banking, eye and vision-sparing treatment strategies for orbital and adnexal cancers, and ocular side effects of cancer therapy.

Dr. Esmaeli helped establish the Ophthalmology Service as a comprehensive full-time service at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in 1998. She served as the Director of Service from 1998 to 2001 and the Chief of Ophthalmology from 2001 to 2004. She is the Program Director for an ASOPRS-sponsored fellowship in oculoplastic surgery and orbital oncology at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. She currently chairs the Graduate Medical Education Committee at MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Research Interests


1.     Sentinel lymph node biopsy for eyelid and conjunctival tumors (melanoma, sebaceous carcinoma, Merkel cell ca) to detect early metastasis

2.     Immunotherapy for orbital and adnexal lymphomas and lymphoproliferative disorders of the orbit

3.     Use of adjuvant radiation therapy for eyelid and orbital cancers after globe sparing surgery

4.     Management of canalicular stenosis and nasolacrimal duct blockage associated with chemotherapy

5.     Conditional knock-out mouse model of eyelid/conjunctival squamous cell carcinoma as a model for human skin squamous cell carcinoma

6.     Tissue and Blood banking for uveal melanoma and mutational analysis of uveal melanomas as basis for targeted adjuvant treatments in uveal melanoma patients

7.     Implementation of AJCC classification in ophthalmic oncology

Office Address

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Ophthalmic Plastic Surgery Program, Department of Plastic Surgery
1515 Holcombe Boulevard
Unit Number: 1488
Houston, TX 77030
Room Number: FCT19.5003

Education & Training

Degree-Granting Education

1986 Chicago Medical School, Chicago, IL, MD, Medicine
1986 University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, MS, Cell Biology and Physiology
1980 Rhodes College, Memphis, TN, BA, Biology

Postgraduate Training

1995-1996 The American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (ASOPRS) Fellowship in Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
1991-1994 Ophthalmology Residency, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Board Certifications

1995 American Board of Ophthalmology, Recertification Date: 2015
1996 Subspecialty Training (not board certification): American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery


Administrative Appointments/Responsibilities

Chair, Graduate Medical Education, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, 2015-present
Fellowship Program Director, Ophthalmic Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery Fellowship Programs, Department of Plastic Surgery, Division of Surgery, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, 2001-present

Honors and Awards

2013 2013 Mentorship Award, WIO/AMA Women Physicians Sector
2011 The American Academy of Ophthalmology Senior Achievement Award
2009-present Best Doctors in America, Best Doctors, Inc.
1998 The Research Award, The American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery
1997 The Merril Reeh Pathology Award, The American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery
1992 The James M. LaBerge Resident Research Award, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Michigan
1989 Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society Award

Professional Memberships

American Ophthalmologic Society
Member, 2012-present
The American Academy of Ophthalmology
Member, 1991-present
The American College of Surgeons
Member, 2000-present
Member, Committee on Applicants, Texas Southern Chapter, 2000-present
The American Medical Association
Member, 1998-present
The American Society of Clinical Oncology
Member, 2001-present
The American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery
Examiner for the Oral Board Exam, 2001-present
Member, International Committee, 2000-present
Member, 1997-present
The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
Member, 1989-present
The Association for Women in Ophthalmology
Member, 1992-present
The Houston Ophthalmological Society
Member, 2000-present
The International Society of Ocular Oncology
Member, 2001-present
The Texas Ophthalmologic Society
Member, 2000-present

Selected Publications

Peer-Reviewed Original Research Articles

1. Baker MS, Yin VT, Ivan D, Allen RC, Carter KD, Esmaeli B, Shriver EM. Epidemiology and Prognosis of Primary Periocular Sweat Gland Carcinomas. Ophthal Plast Reconstr Surg. e-Pub 3/2016. PMID: 26974419.
2. Chattopadhyay C, Kim DW, Gombos DS, Oba J, Qin Y, Williams MD, Esmaeli B, Grimm EA, Wargo JA, Woodman SE, Patel SP. Uveal melanoma: From diagnosis to treatment and the science in between. Cancer. e-Pub 3/2016. PMID: 26991400.
3. Ganesan P, Ali SM, Wang K, Blumenschein GR, , Wolff RA, Miller VA, Stephens PJ, Ross JS, Palmer GA, Janku F. Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor P753S Mutation in Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma Responsive to Cetuximab-Based Therapy. J Clin Oncol 34(5):e34-7, 2/2016. e-Pub 6/2014. PMID: 24934779.
4. Woo KI, Yeom A, Esmaeli B. Management of Lacrimal Gland Carcinoma: Lessons From the Literature in the Past 40 Years. Ophthal Plast Reconstr Surg 32(1):1-10, Jan-Feb, 1/2016. e-Pub 8/2015. PMID: 26291539.
5. Tetzlaff MT, Curry JL, Yin V, Pattanaprichakul P, Manonukul J, Uiprasertkul M, Manyam GC, Wani KM, Aldape K, Zhang L, Prieto VG, Esmaeli B. Distinct Pathways in the Pathogenesis of Sebaceous Carcinomas Implicated by Differentially Expressed MicroRNAs. JAMA Ophthalmol 133(10):1109-16, 10/2015. e-Pub 7/2015. PMID: 26203913.
6. Holliday EB, Esmaeli B, Pinckard J, Garden AS, Rosenthal DI, Morrison WH, Kies MS, Gunn GB, Fuller CD, Phan J, Beadle BM, Zhu XR, Zhang X, Frank SJ. A Multidisciplinary Orbit-Sparing Treatment Approach That Includes Proton Therapy for Epithelial Tumors of the Orbit and Ocular Adnexa. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. e-Pub 8/2015. PMID: 26454680.
7. Ozgur OK, Yin V, Chou E, Ball S, Kies M, William WN, Migden M, Thuro BA, Esmaeli B. Hedgehog Pathway Inhibition for Locally Advanced Periocular Basal Cell Carcinoma and Basal Cell Nevus Syndrome. Am J Ophthalmol 160(2):220-227.e2, 8/2015. e-Pub 4/2015. PMID: 25935097.
8. Bell D, Sniegowski MC, Wani K, Prieto V, Esmaeli B. Mutational landscape of lacrimal gland carcinomas and implications for treatment. Head Neck. e-Pub 4/2015. PMID: 25899808.
9. Tao R, Ma D, Takiar V, Frank SJ, Fuller CD, Gunn GB, Beadle BM, Morrison WH, Rosenthal DI, Edson MA, Esmaeli B, Kupferman ME, Hanna EY, Garden AS, Phan J. Orbital carcinomas treated with adjuvant intensity-modulated radiation therapy. Head Neck. e-Pub 3/2015. PMID: 25782700.
10. Bishop AJ, Garden AS, Gunn GB, Rosenthal DI, Beadle BM, Fuller CD, Levy LB, Gillenwater AM, Kies MS, Esmaeli B, Frank SF, Phan J, Morrison WH. Merkel cell carcinoma of the head and neck: Favorable outcomes with radiotherapy. Head Neck. e-Pub 2/2015. PMID: 25645649.
11. Munch-Petersen HD, Rasmussen PK, Coupland SE, Esmaeli B, Finger PT, Graue GF, Grossniklaus HE, Honavar SG, Khong JJ, McKelvie PA, Mulay K, Prause JU, Ralfkiaer E, Sjö LD, Sniegowski MC, Vemuganti GK, Heegaard S. Ocular Adnexal Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma: A Multicenter International Study. JAMA Ophthalmol 133(2):165-73, 2/2015. e-Pub 11/2014. PMID: 25393033.
12. Esmaeli B. Treatment Challenges with Benign Bone Tumors of the Orbit. Oncul Oncol Pathol:111-120, 2015. e-Pub 2015.
13. Yin VT, Warneke CL, Merritt HA, Esmaeli B. Number of excisions required to obtain clear surgical margins and prognostic value of AJCC T category for patients with eyelid melanoma. Br J Ophthalmol 98(12):1681-5, 12/2014. e-Pub 7/2014. PMID: 25053759.
14. Sniegowski MC, Roberts D, Bakhoum M, Mc Laughlin P, Yin VT, Turturro F, Esmaeli B. Ocular Adnexal Lymphoma: Validation of American Joint Committee on Cancer Seventh Edition Staging Guidelines. Br J Ophthalmol 98(9):1255-60, 9/2014. e-Pub 4/2014. PMID: 24759874.
15. Lee PS, Sedrak P, Guha-Thakurta N, Chang EI, Ginsberg LE, Esmaeli B, Debnam JM. Imaging Findings of Recurrent Tumors After Orbital Exenteration and Free Flap Reconstruction. Ophthal Plast Reconstr Surg 30(4):315-21, Jul-Aug, 7/2014. e-Pub 5/2014. PMID: 24867414.
16. Sedrak P, Lee PS, Guha-Thakurta N, Chang EI, Ginsberg LE, Esmaeli B, Debnam JM. MRI Findings of Myocutaneous and Fasciocutaneous Flaps Used for Reconstruction of Orbital Exenteration Defects. Ophthal Plast Reconstr Surg 30(4):328-36, Jul-Aug, 7/2014. e-Pub 4/2014. PMID: 24777262.
17. Nasser QJ, Pfeiffer ML, Romaguera J, Fowler N, Debnam JM, Samaniego F, El-Sawy T, McLaughlin P, Bakhoum MF, Esmaeli B. Clinical Value of Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Other Baseline Testing for Conjunctival Mucosa-Associated Lymphoid Tissue Lymphoma. Leuk Lymphoma 55(5):1013-7, 5/2014. e-Pub 8/28/2013. PMID: 23879202.
18. Yin VT, Wiraszka TA, Tetzlaff M, Curry JL, Esmaeli B. Cutaneous Eyelid Neoplasms as a Toxicity of Vemurafenib Therapy. Ophthal Plast Reconstr Surg 31(4). e-Pub 5/2014. PMID: 24833447.
19. Sagili S, Yin V, Esmaeli B, O'Donnell B, Eckstein R, Malhotra R. Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Caruncle. Ophthal Plast Reconstr Surg 31(4). e-Pub 5/2014. PMID: 24814271.
20. Nasser QJ, Roth KG, Warneke CL, Yin VT, El Sawy T, Esmaeli B. Impact of AJCC 'T' designation on risk of regional lymph node metastasis in patients with squamous carcinoma of the eyelid. Br J Ophthalmol 98(4):498-501, 4/2014. e-Pub 1/2014. PMID: 24429279.
21. Mortuza S, Esmaeli B, Bell D. Primary intraocular ancient schwannoma: A case report and review of the literature. Head Neck 36(4):E36-8, 4/2014. e-Pub 6/2013. PMID: 23729377.
22. Savar A, Acin S, Gonzalez CL, El-Sawy T, Mejia O, Li Z, Esmaeli B, Lacy-Hulbert A, El-Naggar AK, McCarty JH, Caulin C. Loss of epithelial p53 and αv integrin cooperate through Akt to induce squamous cell carcinoma yet prevent remodeling of the tumor microenvironment. Oncogene. e-Pub 1/2014. PMID: 24469034.
23. Merritt H, Bakhoum MF, Sniegowski MC, Esmaeli B. A 66-year-old woman with extensive conjunctival melanosis. Digit J Ophthalmol 20(2):32-4, 2014. e-Pub 5/2014. PMCID: PMC4120803.
24. El-Sawy T, Frank SJ, Hanna E, Sniegowski M, Lai SY, Nasser QJ, Myers J, Esmaeli B. Multidisciplinary Management of Lacrimal Sac/Nasolacrimal Duct Carcinomas. Ophthal Plast Reconstr Surg 29(6):454-7, Nov-Dec, 11/2013. PMCID: PMC3830646.
25. Bui M, Frank SJ, Nasser QJ, El Sawy T, McLemore MS, Morrison WH, Esmaeli B. "Multidisciplinary Management of Primary Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma of the Eyelid with Perineural Invasion". Ophthal Plast Reconstr Surg 29(6):e143-6, Nov-Dec, 11/2013. e-Pub 2/2013. PMID: 23446295.
26. Pfeiffer ML, Yin VT, Myers J, Esmaeli B. Regional nodal recurrence of sebaceous carcinoma of the caruncle 11 years after primary tumor resection. JAMA Ophthalmol 131(8):1091-2, 8/2013. PMID: 23765335.
27. Fellman M, Carter K, Call CB, Esmaeli B. Disease recurrence after intraarterial chemotherapy in 2 patients with adenoid cystic carcinoma of lacrimal gland. Can J Ophthalmol 48(2):e17-8, 4/2013. PMID: 23561610.
28. Pfeiffer ML, Yin VT, Bell D, Mancini R, Esmaeli B. Sclerosing polycystic adenosis of the lacrimal gland. Ophthalmology 120(4):873-873.e1, 4/2013. PMID: 23552085.
29. Shah K, Esmaeli B, Ginsberg LE. Perineural tumor spread along the nasociliary branch of the ophthalmic nerve: imaging findings. J Comput Assist Tomogr 37(2):282-5, Mar-Apr, 3/2013. PMID: 23493220.
30. Kim HJ, Hayek B, Nasser Q, Esmaeli B. Viability of full-thickness skin grafts used for correction of cicatricial ectropion of lower eyelid in previously irradiated field in the periocular region. Head Neck 35(1):103-8, 1/2013. e-Pub 1/2012. PMID: 22287483.
31. Debnam JM, Mayer RR, Esmaeli B, Weinberg JS, Demonte F, Guha-Thakurta N. Three-Dimensional Multidetector CT for Anatomic Evaluation of Orbital Tumors. J Ophthalmol 2013:674230, 2013. e-Pub 10/2013. PMCID: PMC3833199.
32. El-Sawy T, Sabichi AL, Myers JN, Kies MS, William WN, Glisson BS, Lippman S, Esmaeli B. Epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors for treatment of orbital squamous cell carcinoma. Arch Ophthalmol 130(12):1608-11, 12/1/2012. PMID: 23229707.
33. Esmaeli B, Roberts D, Ross M, Fellman M, Cruz H, Kim SK, Prieto VG. Histologic features of conjunctival melanoma predictive of metastasis and death (an American Ophthalmological thesis). Trans Am Ophthalmol Soc 110:64-73, 12/2012. PMCID: PMC3671367.
34. Savar A, Esmaeli B. Re: "Sentinel lymph node biopsy in patients with conjunctival and eyelid cancers: experience in 17 patients". Ophthal Plast Reconstr Surg 28(6):471; author reply 471-2, Nov-Dec, 11/2012. PMID: 23138213.
35. Oellers P, Savar A, Samaniego F, Pro B, Esmaeli B. Second-line 90yttrium-ibritumormab Tiuxetan (Zevalin) in a Patient with Conjunctival MALT Lymphoma Refractory to Rituximab. Ophthal Plast Reconstr Surg 00(0):1-2, Nov-Dec, 11/2012. PMID: 22820440.
36. Khalili JS, Yu X, Wang J, Hayes BC, Davies MA, Lizee G, Esmaeli B, Woodman SE. Combination Small Molecule MEK and PI3K Inhibition Enhances Uveal Melanoma Cell Death in a Mutant GNAQ-and GNA11-Dependent Manner. Clin Cancer Res 18(16):4345-55, 8/15/2012. e-Pub 6/25/2012. PMID: 22733540.
37. Shinder R, Mostafavi D, Nasser QJ, Esmaeli B, Shore JW. Primary Orbital Liposarcoma Misdiagnosed as Thyroid Associated Orbitopathy. Orbit 31(4):264-6, 8/2012. e-Pub 5/9/2012. PMID: 22571512.
38. Shinder R, Nasser QJ, Gutman J, Brejt S, Williams MD, Esmaeli B. Idiopathic Inflammation of the Orbit and Contiguous Structures. Ophthal Plast Reconstr Surg 28(4):e82-5, Jul-Aug, 7/2012. e-Pub 11/2011. PMID: 22082592.
39. Esmaeli B, Nasser QJ, Cruz H, Fellman M, Warneke CL, Ivan D. American Joint Committee on Cancer T Category for Eyelid Sebaceous Carcinoma Correlates with Nodal Metastasis and Survival. Ophthalmology 119(5):1078-82, 5/2012. e-Pub 2/2012. PMID: 22330966.
40. Nasser QJ, Gombos DS, Williams MD, Guadagnolo BA, Morrison WH, Garden AS, Beadle BM, Canseco E, Esmaeli B. Management of Radiation-induced Severe Anophthalmic Socket Contracture in Patients with Uveal Melanoma. Ophthal Plast Reconstr Surg 28(3):208-12, May-Jun, 5/2012. PMCID: PMC3359825.
41. El-Sawy T, Ali R, Nasser QJ, Esmaeli B. Outcomes of Dacryocystorhinostomy in Patients with Head and Neck Cancer Treated with High-dose Radiation Therapy. Ophthal Plast Reconstr Surg 28(3):196-8, May-Jun, 5/2012. PMID: 22460683.
42. El-Sawy T, Savar A, Williams MD, De Monte F, Esmaeli B. Prognostic Accuracy of the Seventh Edition vs Sixth Edition of the American Joint Committee on Cancer Tumor Classification for Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma of the Lacrimal Gland. Arch Ophthalmol 30(5):664-66, 5/2012. PMID: 22652862.
43. Shinder R, Ivan D, Seigler D, Dogan S, Esmaeli B. Feasibility of Using American Joint Committee on Cancer Classification Criteria for Staging Eyelid Carcinomas. Orbit 30(5):202-207, 10/2011. PMID: 21957948.
44. Connor M, Droll L, Ivan D, Cutlan J, Weber RS, Frank SJ, Esmaeli B. Incidence and Management of Perineural Invasion in Sebaceous Carcinoma of the Eyelid. Ophthal Plast Recon Surg 27(5):356-9, 9/2011. PMID: 21629141.
45. Shinder R, Jackson TL, Araujo D, Prieto VG, Guadagnolo BA, Esmaeli B. Preoperative Radiation Therapy in the Management of Recurrent Orbital Hemangiopericytoma. Ophthalmic Plastic Reconstructive Surgery 27(5):e126-8, 9/2011. PMID: 21242853.
46. Skinner HD, Garden AS, Rosenthal DI, Ang KK, Morrison WH, Esmaeli B, Pinnix CC, Frank SJ. Outcomes of Malignant Tumors of the Lacrimal Apparatus: the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center Experience. Cancer 117(12):2801-10, 6/2011. PMID: 21656758.
47. Hsu A, Esmaeli B, Hayek B, Hossain MG, Shinder R, Lazar A, McCarty JH. Analysis of av Integrin Protein Expression in Human Eyelid and Periorbital Squamous Cell Carcinomas. Journal of Cutaneous Pathology 38(7):570-5, 2011. PMID: 21375561.
48. Savar A, Esmaeli B, Ho H, Liu S, Prieto VG. Conjunctival Melanoma: Local-regional Control Rates, and Impact of High-risk Histologic Features. Journal of Cutaneous Pathology 38(1):18-24, 2011. PMID: 20860727.
49. Savar A, Oellers P, Myers J, Prieto V G, Torres-Cabala C, Frank S J, Ivan D, Esmaeli B. Positive Sentinel Node in Sebaceous Carcinoma of the Eyelid. Ophthalmic Plastic Reconstructive Surgery 27(1):4-6, 2011. PMID: 20940661.

Grant & Contract Support

Title: The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) -Uveal Melanoma Project
Funding Source: National Cancer Institute
Role: Principal Investigator
Duration: 2013 - 2014
Title: Multi-institutional Orbital & Ocular Oncology Database
Funding Source: American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery
Role: Principal Investigator
Duration: 2011 - present
Title: "A double-blind study evaluating the safety and efficacy of cyclosporine ophthalmic emulsion 0.05% [Restasis] in subjects with epiphora secondary to docetaxel [Taxotere] for various cancers"
Funding Source: Allergan Pharmaceutical Corporation
Role: Principal Investigator
Duration: 2008 - 2011
Title: "Integrin-mediated regulation of epithelial cell growth"
Funding Source: American Cancer Society Institutional Grant
Role: Collaborator
Principal Investigator: Joseph McCarty, Ph.D.
Duration: 2008 - 2011

Last updated: 4/6/2016