New treatment for eye cancer easier on young patients


by KING 5 Children's HealthLink

Posted on August 21, 2010 at 11:52 AM

Christina Katsouris and her twin sister Alicia share a musical dream.

"She has an electric guitar and I have a piano, and one day we'll maybe be in a band together," said Christina.

But Christina's dreams were interrupted when a routine eye scan found a cancer called retinoblastoma in her right eye.

"It's shocking. You don't believe that it's happening to your child," said dad, Andreas.

Typically treatment means chemotherapy for nine months, along with monthly hospital stays. It's grueling on kids.

"In order to give enough chemotherapy that it gets to the eye, we have to give enough chemotherapy that these kids get very, very sick," said Dr. Timothy Murray, University of Miami School of Medicine.

Christina was one of the first patients to undergo a new type of targeted chemo. Doctors threaded a small catheter from her leg to her eye, and released the chemo directly into the cancer. The procedure is performed once.

"You don't lose your hair. You don't get sick. You don't have to get treated over and over again," said Dr. Murray.

Christina went home the next day.

Doctors followed the new chemotherapy with several laser treatments to kill remaining cancer cells. Christina needed one more round of targeted chemo. Now her doctors say she is cancer free with 20-20 vision.

Experts say cancer of the retina affects about 300 children in the United States every year. If it's detected early it's curable 90 percent of the time.