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Gains Made in Treating Kids' Eye Cancer

Technique Could Save the Eyes of Children With Retinoblastoma
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 17, 2008 -- A new surgical technique could help children with a rare but aggressive form of eye cancer called retinoblastoma, according to preliminary research presented at a meeting of the Society of Interventional Radiology in Washington, D.C.

The technique uses a tiny catheter to deliver anticancer treatment through the ophthalmic artery to retinoblastoma tumors in young children. It could help avoid the need for eye removal (enucleation).

"Kids arrive in the morning and they are discharged in the afternoon," says Pierre Gobin, a researcher at the Weill Cornell Hospital in New York.

The treatment is for retinoblastoma, a form of cancer that usually strikes children under age 2 and can lead to blindness.

Gobin's team inserts a catheter into an artery in the groin and then carefully pushes it up through the neck to the ophthalmic artery to reach the retinoblastoma tumor.

They then use it to inject tiny amounts of the drug melphalan, a chemotherapy agent.

Twenty-two kids with retinoblastoma were treated using the technique. In the 18 who were fully treated, 14 were able to avoid having their eyes removed.

"In nine cases, vision was preserved," Gobin.

Only about 250 children are diagnosed with retinoblastoma each year, according to the American Cancer Society. The most common warning sign is white reflection in the pupil of the eye. But by the time the sign appears, most children already have advanced disease.

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