1-Year Old with Eye Cancer Accessed the Most Innovative Eye Oncologists

The 12-month old infant of one of our clients was diagnosed with retinoblastoma. Retinoblastoma is a cancer of the eye resulting from a genetic mutation that only affects infants. The incident rate is roughly the same in every country in the world, about 1 in a million. About 2% of all cancers in children under the age of 15 are retinoblastomas.

Retinoblastoma is an incredibly aggressive cancer, and, if not treated relatively soon, it metastasizes and kills quickly. In the United States we are relatively good at treating this cancer and we’ve achieved a mortality rate of less than 5%. In the developing, such as China, the mortality rate is much higher and about 40% of children with retinoblastoma die

Sample of what retinoblastoma looks like; normal eye would have none of the white cloudiness

The standard practice to treat retinoblastoma is the same as it has been for over 100 years: enucleation (i.e., remove the eye). For 1/3 of the affected children, both eyes must be enucleated. Less than 10 years ago a new treatment was jointly developed by Dr. Abramson, a pediatric oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and Dr. Gobin, an interventional radiologist at New York Presbyterian (Columbia and Cornell Universities’ hospital). Both are ranked as top 1% physicians by Castle Connolly.

Their breakthrough was what they called intra-arterial chemotherapy (IAC). The problem is that the blood-brain barrier prevents regular chemotherapy from effectively treating cancers in the head because only about 1% of the chemo will penetrate the barrier.

To overcome our physiology, Dr. Abramson and Dr. Gobin figured out how to deliver chemotherapy at the site of the tumor. They insert a catheter into the femoral artery in the groin and run it up through the aorta, our arterial superhighway, and into the ophthalmic artery which is right behind your eye and feeds the entire blood supply to your eye and its nerves. Chemotherapy is then delivered right at the tumor site.

As soon as we received the patient’s medical records, we got in touch with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Dr. Abramson, and he completed his Co-Diagnosis of the case on the same day. One week later, the child and their family traveled to New York to see Dr. Abramson and Dr. Gobin where they had opportunity to receive treatment from the best.

William Lewis is General Counsel at MORE Health where he manages provider relationships and the company’s legal risks in global health law, corporate governance, and cybersecurity. MORE Health delivers patients access to the best physicians in the world when they need it the most.