Eye Cancer Foundation Joins Union for International Cancer Control

The Eye Cancer Foundation has joined forces with Union for International Cancer Control.

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UICC is the largest and oldest international cancer organization. It has over 1,000 members and 56 partners spanning 162 countries. UICC features the world’s major cancer societies, ministries of health, research and treatment institutions, patient groups, and industry leaders.

Membership in UICC will help expand the reach of The Eye Cancer Foundation’s work by linking it into a worldwide network of individuals and organizations committed to fighting cancer.

“UICC is working with over 130 cancer agencies around the world. The Eye Cancer Foundation is pleased to announce our membership as one of those agencies, and to recieve UICC endorsement of the ECF-sponsored Second Eye Cancer Working Day to be held in in Sydney, Australia, on March 24, 2017. Both the ECF and UICC plan to work toward close cooperation on international initiatives in the future,” ECF Chairman Dr. Paul Finger said.

UICC’s work is guided by nine targets to reduce cancer worldwide, set by the World Cancer Declaration. The goal is to achieve all nine targets by 2025.

  • Strengthen health systems for effective cancer control.
  • Measure cancer burden and impact of cancer plans in all countries.
  • Reduce exposure to cancer risk factors.
  • Universal coverage of HPV and HBV vaccinations.
  • Reduce stigma and dispel myths about cancer.
  • Universal access to screening and early detection of cancer.
  • Improve access to services across the cancer care continuum.
  • Universal availability of pain control and distress management.
  • Improve education of training and health care professionals.

Dr. Finger has already contributed to UICC work. He uthored the eye cancer sections of the UICC Manual of Clinical Oncology – 9th edition.

ECF membership in UICC will create a mutually beneficial relationship. The work of The Eye Cancer Foundation will help UICC achieve its target goals. Membership in this worldwide network will broaden the impact of ECF programs like the 2020 Campaign to strategically train and place eye cancer specialists in underserved regions around the world!

Membership in UICC is an exciting step for The Eye Cancer Foundation, and we look forward to contributing to the organization’s goals.


Successful Eye Cancer Treatment Can Improves Quality for the Extreme Elderly

Treating eye cancer patients in their 80s, 90s, and even older, present a unique set of physical and ethical challenges. A case report written by Dr. Carina Sanvicente and Dr. Paul Finger, and published in the November issue of EyeNet, demonstrates how successful treatment can improve quality of life even for patients of advanced age.

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Demographically, America is getting older, and the fastest growing cohort in the country is the “extreme elderly,” that is patients 85 and older. According to agingstats.gov, the “extreme elderly” patient population will rise from 6.2 million in 2014 to 19 million in 2050.

Some of the challenges doctors face when treating eye cancer patients over 85 include other chronic illnesses, their mental state, hearing loss, and mobility issues. For older patients with many other health problems, doctors have to weigh the risks and benefits of treatment, and consider carefully how it will impact their overall quality of life.

Dr. Neil Bressler, Chief of the Retina Division at the Wilmer Eye Institute in Baltimore, said “no one is too old to benefit from treatment, and patients in their 90s could live another 5 to 10 years.” This may seem counter-intuitive. It’s easy to look at an extremely old patient and think maybe treating eye cancer isn’t the highest priority. After all, they are near the end of their lives.

While doctors should certainly consider all of the relevant factors, the case study presented by Drs. Finger and Sanvicente reveals just how beneficial eye cancer treatment can be, even for patients of advanced age.

The report focused on Mrs. Gisela Dollinger, a healthy 92-year-old Holocaust survivor who was referred to the New York Eye Cancer Center for treatment of a choroidal melanoma in her left eye. Initially, Dollinger was reluctant to pursue intervention.

“I’m 92, I don’t feel anything; how long do you expect me to live?” she asked.

When Dr. Finger explained she could live another 10 years with good vision in the treated eye, and that forgoing treatment could lead to metastatic melanoma, she relented. She gave consent to undergo palladium-103 plaque brachytherapy .

As Dr. Sanvicente put it, the results surpassed all expectations.

Of course, every patient is different. Not every case involving elderly patients will be as easily resolved. Dr. Finger emphasizes that the key is individualizing care.

“Cases like Mrs. Dollinger’s will likely become more prevalent as our population grows older, and we, as physicians, must be prepared. In this particular case, we had an autonomous, lucid, 92-year-old woman presenting with a life- and sight-threatening condition. She was treated with a safe intervention.”

You can download and read the Mrs. Dollinger’s Full Story Here.


Proper Screening for Metastasis Crucial for Choroidal Melanoma Patients

Patients diagnosed with choroidal melanoma run the risk of having the cancer spread to other parts of their body. In fact, medical evidence suggests half of all choroidal melanoma patients will develop metastatic disease.  However, Dr. Paul Finger’s says, “It’s not that simple.”

Studies have pinpointed a number of factors shown to affect the spread of ocular melanoma.  For example, the Collaborative Ocular Melanoma Study found that younger patients are less likely to develop systemic spread. The Ophthalmic Oncology Task Force found that patients whose intraocular tumors recur after treatment are at higher risk for metastasis. Most significantly, evidence confirmed by The American Joint Committee on Cancer clearly shows that the larger the choroidal melanoma, the higher the risk for metastasis.

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This is why early detection and prompt effective treatment of choroidal melanoma saves lives. Without a curative treatment for metastatic disease, Dr. Finger says “destruction of the eye tumor offers the patient his or her best chance for survival.”

Malignant choroidal melanoma develops in the blood-vessel layer “choroid” beneath the retina. About six out of one million people in North America will be diagnosed with a choroidal melanoma each year.

Dr. Finger treats ocular melanoma patients every day. He wrote the chapters on choroidal melanoma in DeVita’s Medical Oncology Textbook, along with The International Union for Cancer Control’s Manual of Clinical Oncology. Through his review of the world’s literature, the accumulation of 31 years experience treating patients, and by performing innovative clinical research, Dr. Finger has confirmed several factors that indicate an increased risk for metastasis. These include tumor size, the age of the patient, and how quickly the tumor is destroyed or removed.

Based on these risk factors and the diagnosis, Dr. Finger determines how to approach metastatic screening for each of his patients. Once the plan is in place, he has the best tools in the world at his disposal. First investigated at the New York Eye Cancer Center, PET/CT screening is the only method that surveys the entire body for metastatic spread. In addition to an initial PET/CT scan, Dr. Finger utilizes subsequent MRI, CT, and ultrasound screening.

Monitoring for cancer spread in choroidal melanoma patients is not a one-size-fits-all process. Dr. Finger approaches it on a patient-by-patient basis, taking into consideration all of the relevant factors.

For more information on metastatic melanoma workup, Download the PDF Here.


Asking These Seven Questions Will Help You Choose the Best Doctor

It makes a difference where you are treated. Knowing the right questions to ask will help you decide.

7 Questions You Should Ask Your Doctor

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We have developed a list of 7 key questions that will help you evaluate prospective physicians. Getting answers to these questions will help you be sure the doctor you chose has the experience necessary to provide the most advanced treatments. The answers will also give insight into where you (the patient) rank within the physician’s list of priorities.

When facing the uncertainty that comes with a diagnosis of eye cancer, you want a physician committed to spending all the time necessary to help you understand your condition and concerns. Discussing these 7 questions with your prospective doctors will help you determine their level of commitment. In addition, the answers will give you a peek inside their practice. You will come away with a much better sense of the doctor’s familiarity with the latest diagnostic and treatment options, how the staff views their relationship with their patients, and whether you’re likely to get caught up in bureaucratic red tape.

At The New York Eye Cancer Center, we are committed to providing patient centered care. We will happily answer these seven questions, along with any others you may have.

Click Here to see the seven questions along with more information on why they are important.


Eye Cancer Foundation Fellowship Alum Making a Difference in India

A doctor who recently completed fellowship training supported by The Eye Cancer Foundation (ECF) is providing eye cancer treatment in an area of India currently lacking any trained specialists in ocular oncology.

Dr. Bikramjit Pal worked under Dr. Tero Kivelä at the Helsinki University Eye Hospital during his six-month fellowship from October 2015 through March 2016. In addition to mentoring from Dr. Kivelä, Dr. Pal learned from a wide range of highly trained medical professionals at the hospital. He actively participated in daily patient workups in the Ocular Oncology Service and observed and assisted in the treatment of eye cancer patients.kivelapalimage2

During his training, Dr. Pal was exposed to a wide range of procedures and treatments, including outpatient and intraoperative transpupillary thermotherapy, ruthenium and iodine plaque brachytherapy, conjunctival surgery, and intravitreal chemotherapy. He was involved in the treatment of conjunctival carcinoma, conjunctival melanoma, ocular adnexal and intraocular lymphoma, uveal melanoma, and retinoblastoma. He also had the opportunity to participate in one-on-one teaching in the latest diagnostic techniques related to eye cancer under the supervision of senior consultants.

In addition to his practical training, Dr. Pal also participated in research studies during his fellowship. He took part in an ocular oncology journal club and undertook three scientific projects, including one case report and two observational case series. Dr. Kivelä praised Dr. Pals work during his fellowship training:

“Dr Pal has shown keen interest in his studies, an excellent working knowledge of fundamentals of ophthalmology, and he has been a most avid observer.”

The Eye Cancer Foundation offers fellowships to doctors from unserved and underserved countries, providing specialized training in the treatment of retinoblastoma and other eye cancers. Once they complete their training, ECF fellows commit to return home to create eye cancer treatment programs.

Dr. Pal plans to begin oncology services at a tertiary eye care facility in Kolkata. This center serves a huge population, not only in eastern India, but also in the neighboring countries of Nepal and Bangladesh. Dr. Pal said he was eager to apply his training in his home country.

“In India, we deal with retinoblastoma so often; hence my aim is to start with a fully equipped clinic which will provide services to patients having intraocular tumors.”

With Dr. Kivelä’s ECF-sponsored fellowship training, Dr. Pal will be able to provide high-quality care to eye cancer patients who would otherwise have little to no access to treatment. This translates to saved vision and lives. Dr. Kivelä will continue to mentor Dr. Pal, providing long-distance consultative support and will soon visit Dr. Pal’s center.

Through the recently launched 2020 Campaign, The Eye Cancer Foundation plans to multiply this success story across the world. With your help, we can train 20 eye cancer specialists to work in 20 countries by 2020.

Our immediate goal with the 2020 Campaign 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.

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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