Trailblazing Eye Cancer Studies Presented at AAO 2017

 

As you may have heard in our previous blog, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) 2017 Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana was attended by noteworthy fellowship alumni from the Eye Cancer Foundation, as well as founder and executive director of the ECF, Dr. Paul T. Finger. Held from November 11th to 14th, AAO took place the day following the 2017 AAOOP Annual Meeting, where oral presentations were given by ECF Fellows Dr. Sonal Chaugule and Dr. Abhilasha Maheshwari.

Dr. Chagule spoke on her research regarding the efficiency of intravitreal steroids to treat radiation side-effects, while Dr. Maheshwari spoke on a 12-year study of patients treated with slotted plaque radiation therapy. To read more on AOOP 2017 presentations from these ECF fellows, click here.

At AAO 2017, hosted at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Dr. Sonal Chaugule, Dr. Ekatrina Semenova, and Dr. Nicole Scripsema presented ECF-sponsored research conducted under the guidance of Dr. Paul T. Finger at the New York Eye Cancer Center and at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary.

Dr. Sonal, pictured below along Dr. Finger, presented two studies, the first titled “Regression patterns of Iris Melanoma after Palladium-103 Plaque Brachytherapy”. This study takes into account 50 iris melanoma patients who were closely evaluated following plaque brachytherapy with Palladium-103 as treatment. The results of this study underscored Palladium-103 as effective treatment for iris melanoma. After incisive evaluation, patients showed decreases in tumor size, tumor pigmentation, and more. These findings are particularly important to iris melanoma patients, who endure a rare condition in the already-rare family of cancers (iris melanoma patients are only 2-3% of eye cancer cases). To read more on this paper and its implications, click here.

Dr. Chaugule’s second presentation concerned her paper most-recently published in the Indian Journal of Opthalmology. Titled “Primary Topical Chemotherapy for Giant Ocular Surface Squamous Neoplasia”, this paper examines and reports the outcomes of using topical chemotherapy eye drops (such as 5-Flurouracil and/or Interferon alpha-2b) to treat giant ocular surface squamous neoplasia. The paper was featured in a past blog post — to read more on the study, which evaluated 10 patients with stage T3 tumors, click here.

Details from AAO do not stop here! Stay tuned for more exciting news on the work ECF Fellows make towards eye cancer research by keeping eyecancer.com in your bookmarks!


The Ocular Tumor Support Group

After several successful meetings throughout the close of 2017, The Ocular Tumor Support Group is back in session! Do you have feelings of loss, stress, anxiety, and/or depression? To be sure, these are all possible experiences people have as they begin to adjust and live with a cancer diagnosis — but why endure it alone? Psychologists have long-attested to the mental health benefits of group therapy, where there exists a nurturing environment to share and perhaps ease one’s stress. The path towards recovery is paved not only with physical well-being, but also emotional well-being. And so, The Eye Cancer Foundation sponsors periodic group therapy sessions for those patients in need of an emotional outlet for their pain.

Karen Campbell, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, will continue to facilitate these sessions. With her 24+ year experience working with medical patients, she offers a wealth of knowledge in how to handle stress, such as mental and physical exercises. Attendee’s of past Ocular Tumor Support Group sessions have expressed gratitude for her work and her enduring tips and advice that have helped them outside of every meeting.

These support sessions are open to all ocular tumor patients, regardless of where you receive your care and how far along in treatment you are. Whether you are currently undergoing treatment or are 10 years out of treatment, we welcome you!

The next meeting will take place within the next few months Friday at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai, 310 East 14th Street in New York City. Stay tuned for the latest update on when that date will be.

If you are considering attending this session, or for more information, please contact Karen Campbell at campbelllcsw@gmail.com or 646-229-9908.

We hope to see you there!


Melanoma 101: How Skin Cancer Can Impact the Eye

Right alongside cancers of the breast and lung, skin cancer exists as a well-known cancer afflicting U.S. Americans. The history of cancer study has lead to the identification of over 200 types of the disease, and skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed of them, affecting more than 1 million Americans a year. Information on this type of cancer has been widely disseminated to the American public, from a fleet of dedicated websites, to news articles, and more, to the extent that most American adults realize that skin cancer can often arise from dangerous exposure to ultraviolet (UV) sunlight. But did you know that skin cancer and eye cancer, a lesser-known type of cancer, are closely linked? Indeed, skin cancer can negatively affect the eyes — take seventy-year-old John McPartland for example, who understood this well.

In 2001, McPartland, a lifetime lover of outdoor activity, noticed a freckle on his eyelid. Determined to find answers, he consulted with many doctors until finally meeting with Dr. Paul T. Finger, who diagnosed McPartland with conjunctival melanoma. A melanoma is a particular type of skin cancer; it affects nearly 70,000 people, and is found on the melanocyte cells of the skin. Melanocyte cells are responsible for the production of brown skin pigment — melanin, Because these pigment-producing cells are afflicted, melanomas commonly begin as pigmented, odd-looking freckles like McPartland’s. The conjunctiva is a delicate, clear membrane covering the inside of the eyelids and the white (sclera) of the eye. McPartland’s diagnosis was deadly.

“I just thought I should check it out and see if it is anything,” McPartland said, “and fortunately I did … As far as I’m concerned, [Dr. Finger] saved my life.”

About 2,400 patients are diagnosed with conjunctival melanoma every year, often in part due to the same UV light that causes skin damage. Those who work outdoors, play sports and/or frequent beaches are most vulnerable to eye cancer. Having light blue eyes and a fair complexion increases vulnerability, due to a lack of melanin (brown pigment) production that protects us from harmful sun exposure. Those who have a family or personal history of skin cancer are also vulnerable. For these people, Dr. Finger recommends that they “should have an eye exam, and then every six months thereafter.”

“Certain drugs also increase UV toxicity” Dr. Finger additionally cautions. “Patients who take chlorothiazides, sulfonamides, tetracycline, phenothiazins, psoralens, and allopurinol should be extra cautious about sunlight.”

A 2008 Fox News article highlights Dr. Finger’s experience with McPartland, along with his advice for optimizing eye health that he continues to recommend to his patients today. While the importance of wearing hats and using sunblock to protect the skin has long been stressed to the American public, Dr. Finger says people should approach this thinking to the eyes as well. The best way one can optimize eye health on their own? Using UV-blocking sunglasses!

“Think of sunglasses as sunblock for your eyes”, Dr. Finger says. He advises that sunglasses with 100% UV protection offer optimal prevention of sun damage to the eye.

 

Cancer is certainly a difficult reality to endure for many people, but there are ways one can help to protect themselves against the disease. By doing something as simple as wearing UV-blocking sunglass, you can take charge of your health today.

Stay tuned for more stories at eyecancer.com by keeping our website in your bookmarks!


From India to the Big Apple

At the close of 2017, The Eye Cancer Foundation promised its supporters to continue the momentum of the tremendous strides made throughout the year, and indeed it has with yet another Eye Cancer Foundation Ophthalmic Oncology Fellowship thus completed. Meet the ECF’s latest Fellowship alumnus: Abhilasha.

Abhilasha Maheshwari, MBBS, hails from the bustling northern city of Chandigarh, India, and took a special interest in the treatment of eye cancers early on in her career as a medical student. It was from there that she further ventured into the speciality by training under the world-renowned eye cancer specialist and member of the Scientific Advisory Board for the Eye Cancer Foundation, Dr. Santosh Hanovar at Centre For Sight in Hyderabad, India. For many South Asians, Centre For Sight is vital, due to the unfortunately low amount of treatment centers readily accessible to eye cancer patients within the geographic area. Dr. Hanovar, always eager to progress the eye cancer speciality, had put forth Dr. Maheshwari as a candidate to be further trained in ophthalmic oncology by Dr. Paul T. Finger at the New York Eye Cancer Center and New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. She was accepted for the program, and arrived for her six month fellowship in August 2017.

Apart from embracing the colorful experience of living in an entirely new city, Dr. Maheshwari has aided in a number of Dr. Finger’s groundbreaking projects during her time as an Eye Cancer Foundation Fellow. January 20, 2018 saw the publication of a paper worked on by Dr. Finger and Dr. Maheshwari, which presents a 12-year study of 52 patients with uvueal melanoma treated with low energy photon, slotted eye plaque Palladium-103 radiation therapy. The paper was successfully published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology and presented orally at the November 2017 American Association of Ophthalmic Oncologists and Pathologists (AAOOP) Annual Meeting held in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Additionally, Dr. Maheshwari became the first ECF-ICO Fellow to participate in the DRO Initiative, a program used by the NYECC to report patient outcomes on the web in a patient-accessible format. Her work included anonymously recording these patients into the program for their disease, treatment, visual acuity, tumor stage and height, and more. She has since handed her instructional work to the next NYECC Fellow, and the DRO Initiative continues with outstanding success. To learn more about DRO, click here.

Where is she now? At the end of her fellowship, Dr. Maheshwari returned to India, where she has recently taken up a hospital job and aims to improve patient life, hoping to one day have all of South Asia (which includes Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka) no longer be an underserved area in the treatment of eye cancer. The ECF plans to keep its supporters updated on all progress made by our alumni, so stay tuned!

To learn more about ECF-ICO Fellowships, including how to apply for one, 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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