Detecting Retinoblastoma

Health Watch

Doctors have found a new way to detect an aggressive cancer in children that robs them of their sight.

One would have never known 6 years ago Ruby Chan was born 3 months premature. 3 months later, she was diagnosed with a life-threatening, sight-stealing disease.

Nellie Chan, Ruby’s mom said, “She wasn’t even supposed to be born yet at this point and they were like, we’d like to take her eye out tomorrow.”

Diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eye where tumors develop behind the retina.

Instead of operating her parents researched. They found ocular oncologist Jesse Berry. Berry developed a liquid biopsy for children like Ruby that answers many of the unknowns.

Jesse Berry, MD, Ocular Oncologist, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles said, “How likely is it that an eye will respond to therapy and how likely is it that an eye might have continued recurrence even in spite of treatment?”

Using a needle, a pea-sized amount of liquid is extracted.

“Instead of placing the needle directly into the tumor, we actually extract a very little bit of liquid called the aqueous humor from the front of the eye,” said Doctor Berry.

In a research setting only, that liquid is tested for DNA molecules that are shed from the tumor cells. Doctors can predict with 75 to 85% accuracy if the tumor will respond to standard treatments.

Ruby had chemo to reduce the size of the tumors and more than 70 laser procedures to burn the edges of them.

“We go to the hospital for my eye,” said Ruby.

Tumors in Ruby’s left eye have not impacted her sight. The original tumor in Ruby’s right eye has left her with 25% of her vision.

“My eye can’t see very well,” said Ruby.

But with the help of targeted therapies, they’re hoping to save both of ruby’s eyes.

Surgeons from all over the country can take a sample of the aqueous humor and send it to Doctor berry and her team for evaluation.

But the best detection may be parents.

When looking at your child’s photograph, instead of the typical red-eye from flash photography.

In a child with retinoblastoma, the pupil will appear white.

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