Best Life: New retinoblastoma testing may predict whether tumors react to treatment, could save children’s eyes

Best Life: New way to fight childhood cancer

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Retinoblastoma: It’s an aggressive cancer in children that robs them of their sight. Now doctors have found a new way to detect it that may end up saving the child’s eyes and life.

Loving … funny … creative … you would never know six years ago Ruby Chan was born three months premature. Three 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 at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Jesse Berry, MD. Berry developed a liquid biopsy for children like Ruby that answers many of the unknowns.

Berry told Ivanhoe, “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,” Berry explained.

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 percent 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,” Ruby said.

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

“My eye can’t see very well,” Chan exclaimed.

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

Children's Hospital Los Angeles is now running a multicenter trial. So, following strict research protocols, surgeons from all over the country can take a sample of the aqueous humor and send it to Dr. Berry and her team for evaluation. But parents, be aware. The best detection may be you! 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.

Copyright 2020 WMC. All rights reserved. Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer; Marsha Lewis, Field Producer; Rusty Reed, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.