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.


When Choosing A Doctor, Results Matter: NYECC Breaks Ground with Clinical Results Available to the Public

Our new Results page began with a question:

how can patients choose the best doctor without knowing their past performance?

In the age of the internet, when HealthGrades and RateMDs are ready to profile a physician with the push of a button, it is now easier than ever to browse for healthcare options. Five-star reviews remarking on wait times and a doctor’s beside manner, while certainly valuable, miss the most important question a patient would like to know: how capable is this doctor of delivering good health outcomes?

For eye cancer patients in particular, understanding where to receive the best possible treatment is paramount. With these patients in mind, The New York Eye Cancer Center is now the first practice of its kind to report patient outcomes on the web in a patient-accessible format. Click here to see our latest Results.

Understanding the Report

We have launched the Results page with reports on three common conditions treated at NYECC: choroidal melanoma, iris-ciliary body melanoma, and squamous conjunctival malignancy. Though Dr. Finger’s clinical practice and peer-reviewed outcomes span his 30 years of practice, this new method of reporting starts with patients treated after December 1, 2017 and will be updated weekly going forward.

For each disease, we report on:

Patients Entered: The number of patients included in these results.

Visual Acuity: The median visual acuity, or eye chart test score, after finishing treatment.

Local Tumor Control: The percentage of patients whose tumors are successfully eliminated through treatment.

Loss of Eye: The percentage of patients whose cases require enucleation, or the removal of the eye, in order to complete treatment.

Metastases: The percentage of patients whose tumors spread to other organs after treatment.

Average Follow Up: Number of years after treatment before additional treatments are required.

The data, located on our Results page and observable through an interactive table, reports on patients treated only by Dr. Finger. Patient data is strictly confidential, HIPPA-compliant and anonymous.

A Piece of the Puzzle

This trailblazing Results page is the next step in a multi-year initiative by Dr. Finger and his colleagues to empower patients and improve outcomes across the ocular oncology specialty.

While medical journals have provided a forum to publish and compare treatment techniques, medicine does not currently have a strong framework to compare overall physician performance in a quantitative, objective manner. In response, a group of eye cancer specialists including Dr. Finger have formed the International Doctor Reported Outcomes (DRO) Initiative.” This initiative is developing a standardized way for doctors to report their results to the public and each other.

Comparing outcomes is a great way to find areas for improvement in medical practice. More importantly for each individual patient, DRO reporting is a clear way to address that essential question: what are the past results of the doctor who is about to treat me? 

The DRO Initiative has been developed over the course of the last two Eye Cancer Working Day conferences, which gathered ocular oncologists from around the world. But identifying a need and making a plan are but a prelude to the achieving our goal: a world in which all medical centers routinely publish their results for the public.

The launch of our results page is the first step, and we encourage other centers to join us in this effort. The Eye Cancer Foundation will offer assistance to any center or solo practitioner in setting up a page akin to the new NYECC Results page.

Let’s hold ourselves accountable to our outcomes and empower patients to make their life-changing choice of eye cancer specialist based on visible results.


The Eye Cancer Working Day: Our Next Step

 

The Working Day initiative, dedicated to improving the eye cancer field through international cooperation between oncologists, lives on with another successful dinner meeting at the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) 2017. Through various oral and poster presentations, The New York Eye Cancer Center and The Eye Cancer Foundation was actively represented through the Working Day Dinner at AAO 2017 on November 9th at the famous Arnaud’s Restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana. The dinner, hosted by the ECF, saw continued collaborative efforts of the projects presented at the Working Day meeting on March 2017 in Australia. Here are the ophthalmologists who discussed these tasks at the dinner meeting:

Dr. Brenda Gallie, who specializes in the research and treatment of retinoblastoma, discussed “Big Data registries” that collect both prospective and retrospective information for retinoblastoma, conjunctival melanoma, intraocular lymphoma and radiation side effects.

Dr. Sonal Chaugule, a recent fellow who trained under Dr. Paul Finger at the New York Eye Cancer Center, discussed the open access, eye cancer surgical textbook and video-atlas that will soon become available to the public.

Dr. Bertil Damato discussed doctors outcomes reporting through the Iris Registry.

Dr. Paul Finger remarked on The Eye Cancer Foundation’s ongoing work with the International Council of Ophthalmology in helping train eye cancer specialists to work in unserved and underserved countries. He invited all who are willing to participate in this fellowship program to contact the speakers directly, thereby extending the efforts of the 2020 Campaign, which is close to reaching its goal of training 20 eye cancer specialists in these unserved countries by the year 2020.

To stay updated on the continued, exciting efforts of all Working Day participants, please keep our website in your bookmarks!


The Global Effort

 

The 2020 Campaign continues to make tremendous strides in the advancement of eye cancer care through the exciting completion of Dr. Milly Shakoor’s 6-month fellowship in retinoblastoma training. This news arrives unitedly with the announcement of another ECF Fellow’s completed training, Dr. Veronica Molleda, from Bolivia. With every fellowship thus offered and completed, The Eye Cancer Foundation and its supporters come closer to fully realizing the goal of training 20 specialists in 20 countries to treat childhood eye cancer.

Eye Cancer Foundation fellowships offer doctors to be trained in the specialized treatment of retinoblastoma, training that they cannot otherwise receive in their home country. These ECF fellowships, partnered with the International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO), are available to candidates from unserved or underserved countries. After 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.

But what is retinoblastoma? Retinoblastoma is the most common eye cancer in children and affects approximately 8,200 children each year. In developed countries like the United Sates,  the survival rate reaches beyond an astounding 96%, with early diagnosis and treatment being key to saving patients’ lives and sight. However, the incidence rate is higher in developing countries, where most of the children succumb to metastatic retinoblastoma. In areas where children and families have no means of traveling to treatment centers far away from them, these afflicted children often endure their untreated disease untreated, which eventually leads to death. Because no child or family should have to suffer these losses, especially due to inability to simply reach a treatment center, the ECF has launched the 2020 Campaign.

Dr. Milly Shakoor comes from Dhaka, the capital of the highly densely-populated country of Bangladesh, where availability of retinoblastoma care is certainly low. She trained at The Centre for Sight in Hyderabad, India with the renown Director of Medical Services, Dr. Santosh G. Honavar (pictured above), who specializes both in oculoplasty and ocular oncology. Since her return to Dhaka, she has been met with several retinoblastoma cases and continues her treatment of them.

As always, The Eye Cancer Foundation these fellowships could not have been completed without the support of readers and donors — and so, the ECF thanks you for helping to provide hope for eye cancer patients around the world. To our audiences, we hope that you will continue to support these projects through your continued readership, word of mouth, and well wishes!


ECF Fellow Brings Hope to Bolivia

 

It is with the deepest pride that The Eye Cancer Foundation announces the successful completion of Dr. Veronica Molleda’s first 3-month fellowship in retinoblastoma care at the Hospital Infantil de Mexico. Under the tutelage of Dr. Marco Ramirez (pictured right), Head of Ophthalmological Services at the Hospital Infantil and the support of the ECF, Dr. Molleda is now well-equipped with valuable training that will aid eye cancer patients in her native home of Bolivia.

In 2016, The ECF launched the 2020 Campaign with the goal of training 20 Specialists in 20 countries to treat childhood eye cancer. In partnership with the International Council of Ophthalmology, 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. Dr. Molleda was offered this fellowship by the ECF, which supported her research and stay in Mexico before her return to Bolivia.

Eye Cancer Foundation fellowships offer doctors specialized training in the treatment of retinoblastoma they cannot otherwise 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 her rotation in Mexico, Dr. Molleda accomplished a great deal of activities. She engaged in bi-weekly meetings with fellow residents to discuss the most recent and relevant issues on retinoblastoma treatment and how to tackle them, as well as presenting difficult cases in retinoblastoma with several oncologists and radiotherapy specialists. She has learned critical information on retinoblastoma, from clinical and differential diagnosis, to Rb genetics. She has developed skills in RetCam operation for outpatient clinics as well as B-scan eye ultrasound for patients with suspicious intraocular tumors. In addition to this, she’s learned critical surgical skills with indirect ophthalmoscope lasers and enucleation with orbital implants. 

“Dr. Molleda will give a superb ophthalmological service to Bolivian patients with retinoblastoma,” says her mentor, Dr. Marco Ramirez, who looks forward to receiving her for another three-months rotation later this year.

The Eye Cancer Foundation humbly thanks its supporters and donors, without whom these fellowships could not have been completed. Every new fellowship awarded and completed provides hope for children whose lives and visions are at risk simply due to their inability to access proper medical care. Your support has always and will continue to make tremendous strides in the field of eye cancer.

 

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

 


The NYECC Support Group’s Next Meeting! Attend In-Person or via Phone!

After two successful meetings where eye cancer patients and survivors shared their feelings in a welcoming, comfortable environment, The New York Eye Cancer Center Support Group, sponsored by The Eye Cancer Foundation, will meet for a third time on November 17, 2017 at 1:30 PM, Eastern Standard Time. This meeting, like its previous ones, will be held at The New York Eye Cancer Center’s conference room located at 115 East 61st Street, New York City, 100065.

Are you halfway across the country? In Texas, California? Are you unable to make it due to working hours, or even that dreaded New York City traffic? Because many potential visitors have expressed their desire to attend but are unable to make it due to any travel inconveniences, we would gladly like to inform anyone that these meetings may be attended via phone call! Regardless of where you are located, the NYECC Support Group wants your voice to be heard! Simply call Karen Campbell, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who helps facilitate these meetings, and mention that you would like to attend via phone.

You can find Karen’s biography below:

“I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and have been practicing in the field for 24 years. In addition to my private psychotherapy practice, most recently, I was in the Director of Vision Rehabilitation Services at the Lighthouse Guild. I started up the Social Work Department at Lighthouse International in 2010 and, as part of that, developed and faciliated the Department’s Support Group program. I also have a background in medical social work, including oncology, having worked at NYU/Langone. I have found support groups to be a valuable way for people to manage their medical challenges and address issues such as family adjustment, depression, anxiety and loss. Although I work primarily with individuals and couples in my private practice, I really enjoy working with groups!”

As we’ve mentioned previously in our regular updates regarding this support group, stress and anxiety are normal experiences for anyone enduring an eye cancer diagnosis. And although it is normal, there are ways to combat these feelings by having a solid support system. For some, these support systems are crucial in order to find one’s bearings and coming to terms with “a new normal”, both of which are important in overall quality of life.

 

Please consider downloading our flyer for November’s meeting here. We hope to meet you there! And to stay updated on all upcoming sessions, please keep our website, eyecancer.com in your bookmarks!


The NYECC Support Group Therapy: A Recap!

The New York Eye Cancer Center Support Group, sponsored by the Eye Cancer Foundation, met for the second time on October 13, 2017. Members in attendance were in varying stages of their treatment and recovery, ranging from a few months to over a decade! Karen Campbell, a licensed clinical social worker with years of experience in oncology and vision loss, led the group in their discussion.

Group members shared the struggles of living with cancer and what their “new normal” is like, such as the need for ongoing scans and check-ups. Anxiety and depression around loss of control, feelings of isolation, and worries about the future were common themes, as was the need for ongoing support. Techniques for coping with these experiences and stressors were discussed and Karen lead the group in a guided imagery relaxation exercise that members found helpful.

Dr. Finger’s associate, Dr. Olszewski, was also in attendance and said, “Mental health is such an important part of overall well-being and quality of life, especially after a life changing diagnosis, such as ocular melanoma. We saw the perfect opportunity to introduce holistic care to the practice by starting this support group. Thanks to the support of the Eye Cancer Foundation, we are working hard to provide monthly group meetings for patients with this diagnosis. Karen Campbell is a natural fit for steering the meeting, given her experience in dealing with patients with both cancer and vision loss.

It was my pleasure to attend our second group session. Although I do not have a personal history ocular melanoma, I shared my experiences as a provider in this practice. I also have family members with cancer diagnoses and shared my feelings and point of view as a member of their support systems. I found Karen’s guided breathing exercises particularly enlightening; I felt an immediate wave of calm wash over me as she spoke, which stayed with me, even after I left the meeting. I truly believe that many of our patients would benefit from attending these group sessions.”

Stay tuned for an upcoming announcement regarding the date, time, and place of the next NYECC Support Group session.


Eye Injections 101

An intraocular injection (i.e., an injection made directly into the eye) may sound intimidating, uncommon, and dangerous. But did you know that intraocular injections are one of the most common surgical procedures practiced today in the United States? These injections are used mostly to treat macular degeneration, a deterioration of the sensitive, central portion of the retina (the macula) that makes it the leading cause of vision loss in Americans, more than cataracts and glaucoma combined (American Macular Degeneration Foundation). In 2005, Dr. Paul T. Finger discovered that these intraocular injections can be used towards another effect: in the vision-sparing treatment of radiation retinopathy.

Radiation retinopathy, or neuropathy, occurs as a side effect of the radiation used to treat orbital tumors or melanoma. When radiated, the retina and optic nerve may be progressively damaged over time, which can lead to permanent loss of vision if left untreated. Thus, intraocular injections of ANTI-VEGF therapy, such as Avastin or Eyelea, can help to suppress this retina and optic nerve damage caused by radiation treatment.

At The New York Eye Cancer Center, we aim to provide you with the best possible information regarding intraocular injections to ease any misgivings. We are constantly monitoring our patients who have undergone treatment to watch for signs of radiation retinopathy, and if injections of ANTI-VEGF therapy are required. For these patients, we have published a video that provides all necessary information regarding their expected injections, and what they can expect before, during, and after therapy. We stress, particularly, that treating radiation retinopathy is similar to the concept of treating hypertension (high blood pressure) or diabetes; the drugs administered will diminish the damage for these long-term medical conditions.

You can watch this video below at your convenience:

Eye Injection: Intraocular Injection at The New York Eye Cancer Center from Paul T Finger on Vimeo.

We have more upcoming videos available for public viewing at The New York Eye Cancer, so kindly consider keeping eyecancer.com in your bookmarks to stay tuned for them!


New Details Regarding the NYECC Support Group!

As you may have read in our blog the week prior, The New York Eye Cancer Center is pleased to announce that we, with the support of The Eye Cancer Foundation, are hosting periodic group therapy sessions for our patients. Life after diagnosis and treatment of an ocular melanoma can cause stress and anxiety. Although it’s normal to feel this way, many people do find that having a solid support system is crucial in finding their bearings and coming to terms with “a new normal”, both of which are important in overall quality of life.

Friends and family can be excellent support systems, but there can also be a benefit to sharing your feelings with other patients who have had very similar experiences. The New York Eye Cancer Center Support Group is seeking to provide you with this emotional outlet. Our support group is facilitated by wonderful licensed clinical social worker, Karen Campbell.

You can find Karen’s short biography below:

“I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and have been practicing in the field for 24 years. In addition to my private psychotherapy practice, most recently, I was in the Director of Vision Rehabilitation Services at the Lighthouse Guild. I started up the Social Work Department at Lighthouse International in 2010 and, as part of that, developed and faciliated the Department’s Support Group program. I also have a background in medical social work, including oncology, having worked at NYU/Langone. I have found support groups to be a valuable way for people to manage their medical challenges and address issues such as family adjustment, depression, anxiety and loss. Although I work primarily with individuals and couples in my private practice, I really enjoy working with groups!”

Karen brings to the practice her years of experience in counseling patients with both cancer and vision loss, making her a perfect fit for the NYECC family.

You can meet her and other patients at our next group therapy session at the NYECC on Friday, October 13, 2017 at 1:30 PM, Eastern Standard Time.

We hope to see you there!

And to stay updated on all upcoming sessions, please keep our website, eyecancer.com in your bookmarks!


A New Support Group for Eye Cancer Patients is Available!

Stress and anxiety following treatment for choroidal melanoma have been well recognized among patients and studied among doctors. In fact, The NIH-funded Collaborative Ocular Melanoma Study reported on 209 patients with medium-sized melanoma treated with either brachytherapy or enucleation. In this sub-study, their goal was to compare the quality of life between treatment groups using questionnaires.

After questioning patients, researchers found that those undergoing radiation therapy had better quality of life outcomes related to their vision, such as driving, near activities, and binocular vision. After three to five years post-treatment, this benefit did decline, paralleling a decline in vision for the brachytherapy-treatment group (this, of course, predates the advent of vision-sparing anti-VEGF therapy).

However, in the scientific article published for the study, researchers state that “certain patients treated with brachytherapy, particularly those with pre-existing symptoms of anxiety, may suffer from increased risk of anxiety as compared with patients treated with enucleation during follow-up (Archives of Ophthalmology).”

At The New York Eye Cancer Center, we are currently participating in a study evaluating patient reported outcomes after plaque brachytherapy for choroidal melanoma. The more we understand a patient’s reception of plaque brachytherapy and the effect their treatment has had on their lives, the more we can specialize our care for each individual. We strive to offer compassion and understand what our patients are going through on a personal and psychological level. In an effort to help patients deal with their stress and anxiety, The New York Eye Cancer Center has begun to host a support group specifically for eye cancer patients and survivors. Please join Karen Campbell, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), who will facilitate this group. Sponsored by The Eye Cancer Foundation, this group therapy session will be held on Friday, October 13, 2017 at 1:30 pm at The New York Eye Cancer Center. Join us to have your voice heard among peers who understand what you are going through!

For your convenience, please consider downloading this flyer for the Support Group that contains all necessary information. We will host more sessions in the future, so in order to stay tuned for announcements on upcoming dates, please check back on eyecancer.com regularly!

 


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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