Study looks at potential of suppressing ocular cancer in children

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The FINANCIAL — Study researchers say that retinoblastoma forms from mutations in the RB1 gene and the loss of functional RB protein.

In their study, they compared the development of these mutations in human and mouse models, concluding that they developed differently and called into question the accuracy of mouse retinoblastoma models used in research. The more accurate the model, they say, the more opportunity there is “to improve treatment and prevent tumorigenesis in genetically predisposed children.

“In conclusion, our data supports a model in which human RB-deficient maturing cone precursors initially form proliferative lesions that resemble differentiated retinoblastomas in which the majority of cells exits the cell cycle to form non-proliferating retinomas and a minority remains in the cell cycle, possibly in an indolent state, to form retinoblastoma tumors,” they wrote in the study.

Earlier intervention

Kerry Beebe, O.D., began conducting infant eye assessments through the AOA’s InfantSEE program, which began in 2005. Managed by Optometry Cares-The AOA Foundation, InfantSEE and its volunteer doctors of optometry provide no-cost, comprehensive eye and vision assessments to infants within the first year of life, regardless of a family’s income or access to insurance coverage.

“What the study means right now is really nothing different in terms of how we’re treating patients or diagnosing them,” he says.

“But, as optometrists, we now understand a little more about the earliest changes in the retina and the development of retinoblastoma,” he adds.

“And maybe down the road, we can intervene to stop that process from happening. There may come a time when we can actually prevent the tumor cells from forming, which would be at the earliest stage possible. That’s what is exciting about this research. Until then, the earlier a diagnosis is made, the higher the chance for a successful outcome.

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In the meantime, Dr. Beebe says, the research serves another important purpose-reinforcing the essentialness of regular, in-person eye examinations. The AOA recommends infants get their first eye assessment between 6 months and one year.

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