A revolutionary new technique may change the premise that treating eye cancer often requires radiation that leaves half of all patients partially blind.
Scott Oliver from the University of Colorado School of Medicine Oliver has discovered that silicone oil applied inside the eye can block up to 55 percent of harmful radiation, enough to prevent blindness in most patients.
"If you get diagnosed with eye cancer you want to know, 'Is this going to kill me? Is this going to make me go blind?"" said Oliver.
Oliver focused on choroidal melanoma of the eye or uveal cancer, which can spread quickly to the liver and lungs.
In the currently used technique called plaque brachytherapy for treatment a gold cap containing radioactive seeds is attached to the white part of the eye. For one week the radiation slowly incinerates the tumor but it also causes long-term damage.
"Radiation injures blood vessels and nerves in the back of the eye.
"Half of all patients are legally blind in three years in the treated eye," he said.
In his quest to save their eyesight, Oliver experimented with a series of substances that would block radiation from striking critical structures while allowing it to hit the tumor.
He discovered that silicone oil, already used to treat retinal detachment, could screen out a majority of harmful radiation.
"You don't have to block out all the radiation to protect the eye because the vital structures in the eye can tolerate low doses of radiation," he said.
The findings were published in the July issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.