The 2020 Campaign: Train 20 Specialists in 20 Countries to Treat Childhood Eye Cancer

Every year, retinoblastoma afflicts some 10,000 children around the world. This eye cancer has a 98% cure rate with proper diagnosis and treatment, but many children in less developed countries lose their vision and even their lives because of lack of access to proper care.

Through the recently launched 2020 Campaign, The Eye Cancer Foundation plans to change that. With your help, we can train 20 eye cancer specialists to work in 20 countries by 2020. This will save thousands of children’s lives.

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Retinoblastoma is the most common eye cancer in children. It typically develops before the age of three. The incidence rate is somewhat higher in developing countries, where most of these children eventually succumb to metastatic retinoblastoma. In contrast, in developed countries like the US where there is access to specialized treatment, most patients survive to lead normal lives.

Screening, early diagnosis, and prompt treatment will save lives. In countries without eye cancer specialists, children with retinoblastoma typically go undiagnosed and untreated until it’s too late. Many less developed countries don’t even have a single doctor specializing in eye cancer treatment, and local general ophthalmologists are not familiar with modern eye cancer medicine. With a relatively small investment, we can provide doctors with specialized training in retinoblastoma treatment and strategically place them in underserved regions around the world.

Earlier this fall, The Eye Cancer Foundation launched a partnership with the International Council of Ophthalmology to support and promote eye cancer fellowship education for doctors from unserved and underserved countries. This partnership will greatly expand the ECF fellowship program already in place.

But we still need your help!

Through the 2020 Campaign our immediate goal is to save the lives of 1,000 children by 2020. But that’s only the beginning. Our ability to train doctors and supply them with the equipment they need to properly diagnose and treat retinoblastoma is only limited by the generosity of our donors.

You can become part of the cure with a one-time or recurring donation to The Eye Cancer Foundation. Click HERE to donate today.

Note: You are welcome to use the graphics in this post to promote the 2020 Campaign on social media or your own website. Please link to: https://www.eyecancercure.com/2020/

 

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7 Questions You Should Ask Your Doctor

  1. Does your doctor spend as much time as you need to understand your condition and treatment options?
  2. Which doctor will perform your surgery?
  3. Who answers the office phone at night?
  4. How familiar is your doctor with established and new treatments? What innovative treatments has your doctor developed?
  5. Does your doctor publish their results?
  6. Will you be trapped in a system?
  7. Are you treated with respect by all practice staff?

1. Does your doctor spend as much time as you need to understand your condition and treatment options?

We all know the trend of medicine over the past several decades: doctors’ decisions are being pressured by outside forces and patients feel like they are being rushed along a conveyor belt of care.

At The New York Eye Cancer Center, Dr. Finger and his staff take the time to understand each patient’s needs, answer all questions, and ensure that critical details do not go overlooked.

This is why our practice does not directly participate in many major insurance plans – though we will assist patients seeking reimbursement. Our first priority is patient care that will not be sacrificed to government, hospital, or insurance company demands.

2. Which doctor will perform your surgery?

When you are referred to a specific doctor, you should see that doctor for the initial consultation and in the operating room. You should know what role other doctors, associates, fellows, or residents are taking in your procedures.

At The New York Eye Cancer Center, we think patients deserve to know who will be the primary surgeon for their operations. Your consultation and surgery will be performed by Dr. Finger, who has over 30 years experience treating eye cancers.

3. Who answers the office phone at night?

Find out who answers the phone after hours. Is it a voicemail or will you be sent to the emergency room after office hours?

At The New York Eye Cancer Center, our staff of doctors are trained to answer questions during the day, but care extends beyond office hours. We always have a live person answering our phone even after the office is closed. This ensures that emergencies will be handled by Dr. Finger or his staff at all times. In addition, non-emergency messages will be delivered to The New York Eye Cancer Center office every morning.

4. How familiar is your doctor with established and new treatments? What innovative treatments has your doctor developed?

Look up your doctor before you have your consultation. You can search their publications on http://pubmed.gov. You can also visit the doctor’s web site to evaluate their training.

Dr. Finger has written review articles on eye surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and metastasis. He recently published the chapter on intraocular melanoma for DeVita’s Textbook of Medical Oncology, as well as the chapter covering all eye cancers in the UICC Manual of Clinical Ophthalmic Oncology.

Patients should also consider seeking a physician who actively contributes to medical advancements. This is not simply for the benefit of mankind, but demonstrates the doctor’s knowledge about his specialty’s state of the art.

Dr. Finger is a pioneer in his field, with 14 filed patents/trademarks and over 300 published medical journal articles and book chapters. Dr. Finger has developed many new medical devices, as well as innovative diagnostic and surgical techniques.

5. Does your doctor publish their results?

Clearly, patients do not want the most popular or the most sociable doctor – they want the doctor who will deliver the highest possible chance of preserving their life and their sight.

At The New York Eye Cancer Center, we have a long history of publishing our results in the medical literature. Recently, we were the first to place summaries of our published results online so that prospective patients can easily access them.

6. Will you be trapped in a system?

Many centers and insurance companies are run as self-contained medical systems. That means every aspect of your care is given within that system (consultations, surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, surveillance). While one-stop-shopping may be easy, it also can prevent you from seeing excellent physicians outside that network.

Dr. Finger is in private practice, so he is able to work with a network of independent service providers that stretch across New York City. Dr. Finger has the freedom to choose his preferred providers for each individual service. The result is his “dream team” of professionals who are each at the top of their field.

7. Are you treated with respect by all practice staff?

Cancer patients know the importance of hope and positivity in surviving this disease. Though appointments may unavoidably cause some anxiety, the doctor’s office should be a place to reinvigorate you in your battle. Patients deserve to be treated with care and respect not just by the doctor, but also by the front desk, billing, optometry, and other office staff. Patients should not be left waiting all day for a scheduled appointment. When emergencies are fit into the schedule, the staff should tell you and make you as comfortable as possible.

The New York Eye Cancer Center prides itself on the quality of each member of its staff. Every patient receives the highest level of care and respect, as you deserve.


Unlocked Genetic Process Could Lead to New Retinoblastoma Treatment

Researchers have identified the critical role of a cancer-promoting gene in the growth and survival of retinoblastoma cells. This discovery could lead to new treatment options.

Retinoblastoma is the most common intraocular childhood cancer. It affects approximately 300 children in the United States each year and more than 8,000 worldwide. When detected early, the cure rate is high, but if the diagnosis is delayed, it can result in the loss of an eye and even death.

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Researchers at the Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles found that a protein known as MDM2 plays a critical role in the expression of another protein, MYCN, that is required for the growth and survival of retinoblastoma cells.

In previous studies, David Cobrinik, MD, PhD discovered that retinoblastoma forms from cone cells in the retina. The recent study, published in the October 17 online edition of the journal Oncogene, looked at characteristics that make these cells prone to retinoblastoma when the RB1 gene is inactivated, allowing for unchecked cell growth.

“An important way in which cone cells differ from other retinal cell types is their high expression of MDM2 and MYCN,” said first author Donglai Qi, PhD. “We have shown crosstalk between these two oncoproteins in which MDM2 promotes MYCN expression in retinoblastoma cells.”

An oncoprotein is encoded by a cancer promoting gene (oncogene). In tumor cells, oncoproteins are often mutated and expressed at high levels. Normally, MYCN provides instructions for the production of a protein that plays an important role in the formation of tissues and organs during embryonic development. But when mutated, the MYCN oncogene has the potential to cause normal cells to become cancerous.

Researchers say in addition to MCYN’s presence in retinoblastoma, it is also elevated in 20 to 25 percent of neuroblastoma tumors, and correlates with advanced disease and poor prognosis. It also plays a role in other childhood cancers.

Researchers say treatments directed at MYCN could be effective, but targeting this oncoprotein is problematic because it is difficult to block. Knowing the link between MDM2 and MYCN, researchers can now look for ways to target the mechanism through which MDM2 regulates MYCN expression.

“This identification of a critical and unexpected node in the retinoblastoma signaling circuitry could theoretically lead to pharmacologic targeting, Cobrinik said.


Easing the Way into Life After Eye Loss

Despite the many vision-saving eye cancer treatments available, sometimes it becomes necessary to remove an eye. For patients facing enucleation surgery, the prospect of losing an eye is scary. Fortunately, most patients can see with their remaining eye and will most likely be able to do all the things they used to do before, including driving a car. With modern eye prosthesis, the loss of the eye is hardly noticeable.

For patients facing enucleation surgery, or those who have already experienced the loss of an eye, the website LostEye.com serves as a fantastic resource, offering both practical information and encouragement.

Jay Adkisson created and edits LostEye.com. He had his eye surgically removed after doctors diagnosed him with choroidal melanoma. Because the tumor was so close to his optic nerve, Jay opted for enucleation. Just three years later, he earned his FAA pilot license. Jay’s testimonial on the LostEye.com home page offers encouragement for anybody facing the loss of an eye.

“Believe it or not, five days later I was back at work at my law practice, and now the fact that I only have one eye is barely an inconvenience, and not even something I notice unless I think about it. My driving isn’t any different (I give myself a little more space for the cars ahead of me), and my life isn’t any different. I haven’t even noticed any significant loss of depth perception. In other words, life has returned to pretty much what it was before I went in for the surgery.”

Jay says his experience led him to create LostEye.com as a way to help other patients.

“I know, and I mean really know – personally – how stressful losing an eye can be. Thus, I have created this completely free, noncommercial website for the information and support of those who have recently lost an eye, or who may lose an eye due to surgery, disease, etc.”

LostEye.com features a wide range of information for those facing enucleation surgery, as well as those who have already lost an eye. There is an entire page devoted to what patients can expect in the days leading up to surgery and during their recovery. You will find information on how to protect the remaining good eye and how to cope with the fear of losing an eye. There are also pages devoted to driving with one eye, prosthetic eyes, and a discussion on depth perception.

But it’s not just the information available that makes LostEye.com such a good resource. It also hosts an online community through a robust discussion forum. Here, patients facing the loss of an eye can connect with people who have already gone through the experience. They can ask questions, receive encouragement and exchange information. The opportunity to connect with others who have walked the same path helps patients realize they aren’t alone.

LostEye.com provides both information and encouragement and is a resource anybody dealing with the loss of an eye will find valuable.


Syrian Doctor Grateful for ECF Fellowship Training

Ata Rajeh, MD recently completed fellowship training in ocular oncology under Yacoub Yousef, MD of Jordan. The training was supported by The Eye Cancer Foundation (ECF).

ECF fellowships are available to candidates from unserved or underserved countries. Once the doctors complete their six months of training, they agree to return to their home country to start or participate in eye cancer treatment for the unserved.

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Rajeh is from the war-torn country of Syria. His fellowship ran from April to October 2016 at the King Hussein Cancer Center in Amman, Jordan. Dr. Yacoub Yousef and his team supervised Rajeh’s training. Rajeh had the opportunity to learn from a wide range of highly trained medical professionals, including retina specialists, pediatric ophthalmologists, oculoplastic surgeons, pediatric oncologists, radiotherapists, and low vision aid specialists.

Eye Cancer Foundation fellowships offer doctors specialized training in the treatment of retinoblastoma they could never receive in their home country. Retinoblastoma is the most common eye cancer in children and affects approximately 8,200 children each year. The incidence rate is somewhat higher in developing countries, where most of the children eventually succumb to metastatic retinoblastoma. In contrast, there exists a better than 96% survival rate in developed countries like the USA. Early diagnosis and treatment is key to saving retinoblastoma patients’ lives and their sight.

During his six months at King Hussein Cancer Center, Rajeh was exposed to full-range, comprehensive management of more than 100 retinoblastoma patients rajeh-1who were diagnosed at different stages in the disease. This allowed him to observe a wide variety of treatment regimens, including systemic chemotherapy, intraocular chemotherapy, intra-arterial systemic chemotherapy, focal consolidation therapies (e.g. laser and “freezing” cryotherapy), radioactive plaque therapy, external beam radiation therapy, and when necessary – removal of cancer-filled eyes.

In addition to his interaction with patients, Rajeh also accomplished research alongside Dr. Yousef. His primary project related to the management of conjunctival squamous cell carcinoma in Jordan.

“I am very excited about the results of our research,” Rajeh said. “I am the first author, and this manuscript will soon be submitted to a peer reviewed journal.”

Rajeh received invaluable training among the millions of displaced Syrians currently in Jordon. He hopes to open the first Retinoblastoma Center in Syria, and he expresses his deep gratitude to The Eye Cancer Foundation for the opportunity.

“I am going to work on building my experience in the field of ocular oncology, in the retinoblastoma field in specific,” he said in a recent letter to The Eye Cancer Foundation Board. “When I get home, I will work to establish a service that doesn’t exist in my home country. The Eye Cancer Foundation Fellowship King Hussein Cancer Center will help me a lot in gaining my aim.”

For more information on The Eye Cancer Foundation Fellowships, including how to apply, click HERE.


Patient Stories

"Very well treated by Dr. Finger. He explained everything I needed to know about my issue with detail and attention, putting me at ease and giving me confidence to handle this problem for the rest of my life.”
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