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New cancer treatment focuses on the eye

The new therapy targets the white cancer spots in the eye (eyecancer.com) eyecancer.com

Researchers at a Swiss hospital have developed a new treatment for cancer of the eye in small children and babies.

This content was published on May 10, 2005 - 15:53

Using targeted radiotherapy they say they are able to prevent damage to healthy tissue and even loss of the eye.

But the scientists at Lausanne University Hospital and the Jules Gonin clinic are cautious about the therapy’s success rate.

So far just three babies have undergone the treatment. At least two years have to pass before the patient can be declared cured, the hospital said in a statement on Tuesday.

The cancer, known as retinoblastoma, affects children under the age of four and is extremely rare. Only one in 20,000 young children suffer from the illness.

The tumour grows in cells of the retina before they are fully developed and often goes undetected for weeks. In the past, the only treatment available was conventional radiotherapy or the removal of the affected eye, according to experts.

Using conventional radiotherapy often led to side effects such as burns and lesions of the blood vessels and in some cases even prompted new tumours to develop.

Challenge

With the new treatment a high dose of radiation is targeted at a surface of less than one square millimetre. Patients have to sit absolutely still during treatment which is repeated every day for six weeks.

Children are anaesthetised and their heads and eyes fixed in place under a mask.

The new therapy is the result of progress in the fields of anaesthia and information technology, the statement said.

Patients can normally leave the hospital within an hour of being treated.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Retinoplastoma is the most common form of cancer of the eye in small children.
About one in 20,000 young children suffer from the illness.
5% of cases of blindness are caused by retinoplastoma.
In most cases (60-70%) the tumour affects one eye only.

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