Intra-arterial chemo saves eyes and sight of 65% children with eye cancer at AIIMS
NEW DELHI: Intra-arterial chemotherapy has proven to be a lifesaver for the eyes and vision of over 65% of the 170 children who underwent the procedure at AIIMS after showing no response to standard chemotherapy for retinoblastoma, the most prevalent eye cancer among children under five years old.
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Professor Bhavna Chawla, an ophthalmologist, emphasized that without this treatment, these children would have had to undergo surgical removal of the infected eye. She noted that AIIMS reports at least 250 new cases of retinoblastoma annually. She also stressed the importance of parents being vigilant for early signs of eye cancer in children, such as leukocoria (white spots in the eye) and squinting.
Doctors point out that the treatment approach for retinoblastoma hinges on the stage at which it is diagnosed. While various treatments exist for the disease, advanced-stage infections often necessitate surgical eye removal to eradicate the cancer. Dr. Chawla explained that in such cases, children must wear artificial eyes, and it is alarming that a third of affected children have tumors in both eyes, underscoring the need for greater awareness.
Intra-arterial chemo (#IAC) has rapidly become one of the most common #retinoblastoma eye-salvage therapies.
Previously, chemotherapy was administered intravenously, but it affected the entire body, causing side effects to healthy cells. “Intra-arterial chemotherapy offers the advantage of delivering drugs directly to the targeted area without harming other cells. This technique also allows the use of drugs with toxic properties that couldn’t be administered otherwise,” added Dr. Chawla.
Continuous follow-up is crucial in these cases. “For individuals with a family history, lifelong follow-up is necessary. For others, follow-up is recommended until the child reaches 10-12 years of age and is tumor-free,” she advised.
Performing such procedures requires a multidisciplinary team of interventional neuroradiologists, ophthalmologists, and pediatricians, and this specialized service is only available at select centers, including AIIMS.
Interventional neuroradiologist Professor SB Gaikwad pointed out that multiple sessions are often required for a single patient, with intervals of 3-4 weeks between sessions. The procedure is priced at Rs 1 lakh at AIIMS.