Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers help make pediatric eye cancer easier to detect

Date:
November 6, 2013
Source:
Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary
Summary:
Can parents use digital cameras and smart phones to potentially screen their children for the most common form of pediatric eye cancer? Researchers believe so.

Can parents use digital cameras and smart phones to potentially screen their children for the most common form of pediatric eye cancer? Baylor University and Harvard Medical School researchers believe so. In their study, published online this week in PLOS One, the researchers discovered, through the use of amateur digital photography, evidence of leukocoria or "white eye," the cardinal symptom of retinoblastoma, which can be seen in photographs during the earliest stages of the disease. Their findings potentially pave the way for a new diagnostic tool that enables earlier diagnosis and treatment. Retinoblastoma, mostly occurring in children from birth to 5-years-old, is an aggressive eye cancer that, if not treated in time, can be fatal if it spreads to the brain.

Related Articles


Although children in the United States who are treated for retinoblastoma have a 95 percent survival rate that figure drops below 50 percent for children in developing countries. However, surviving retinoblastoma is just the first hurdle. Typically, "survivors experience moderate to severe vision loss" and in some cases loss of both eyes, but early detection and treatment can increase the chances of survival and vision preservation.

Historically, children with retinoblastoma exhibit persistent leukocoria in photographs. Despite this link, digital photography has not been intentionally used by doctors to screen for retinoblastoma because "white eye" is assumed to be a symptom of advanced retinoblastoma, not early stage retinoblastoma -- a paradigm dispelled by the Baylor-Harvard Medical School study.

"Diagnosing retinoblastoma continues to be a major challenge. One of the most effective methods for detecting it appears to be amateur photography," said Bryan F. Shaw, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences and lead study author. "In a majority of retinoblastoma cases, it is the parents that initiate the diagnosis based on seeing leukocoria or 'white eye' in photos of their children."

That was the case for Shaw and his wife, Elizabeth, a stay-at-home mother, who first noticed their son Noah's "white eye" in family photographs. It was Noah's battle with retinoblastoma that inspired Bryan Shaw to begin to try and make digital photography a deliberate tool in retinoblastoma screening.

"Newborns and infants don't typically get checked out by an ophthalmologist, but many of them do get their retinas scanned multiple times a week, when mom or dad are snapping pictures to share on Facebook," Shaw said.

As part of the study, researchers analyzed more than 7,000 recreational photographs or "baby pictures" of nine retinoblastoma patients and 19 children without the disease. After analyzing his son's pictures and quantifying the daily occurrence of leukocoria, Shaw was able to determine that "white eye" is not necessarily a symptom of advanced retinoblastoma, but that leukocoria can be a symptom of retinoblastoma in its earliest stages, for example, at 12 days old as in Noah's case.

Shaw also found "that the intensity of the "white eye" was different in each of his son's eyes and that the saturation, or measurement of color concentration, was lower in the eye with the larger tumors." These findings suggest that a digital camera can not only alert parents that their child might have retinoblastoma, but it can also inform a doctor of its severity.

"From our work, we were able to create the first quantitative scale of leukocoria by which to evaluate the intensity of retinoblastoma-linked leukocoria," Shaw said. "We were able to determine that the frequency of leukocoria can correlate with the clinical severity of retinoblastoma. Leukocoria can emerge in low frequency in early-stage retinoblastoma and increase in frequency during disease progression and decrease during disease remission."

These results suggest that leukocoria is often occurring in young children long before parents may notice it on their own because it initially occurs infrequently as the tumors are small in size and number.

That discovery confirmed the hypothesis proposed by Shaw and study co-author Shizuo Mukai, M.D., associate professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School and a pediatric retina specialist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear. Mukai, who successfully treated Noah's cancer by surgically removing his tumors, specializes in pediatric retinal diseases and intraocular tumors.

"Although leukocoria is the most common presenting sign of retinoblastoma occurring in 50 percent of new patients, it is usually not detected by the parents or the pediatrician until the tumor is of significant size," Dr. Mukai said. Their research is a pivotal step in laying the groundwork for creating software "to alert unsuspecting parents to the emergence of recurrent leukocoria," Shaw said. In developing countries, where most deaths occur, speeding up diagnoses could save lives.

"In Namibia or India, for example, a parent's access to digital photography is probably going to continue to increase at a faster rate than their access to monthly pediatric eye exams," Shaw said. "If we can create software that can detect leukocoria and alert a parent when it begins to occur persistently, then I believe digital photography can eradicate metastatic retinoblastoma from this world and prevent most of the deaths that occur."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Alireza Abdolvahabi, Brandon W. Taylor, Rebecca L. Holden, Elizabeth V. Shaw, Alex Kentsis, Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo, Shizuo Mukai, Bryan F. Shaw. Colorimetric and Longitudinal Analysis of Leukocoria in Recreational Photographs of Children with Retinoblastoma. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (10): e76677 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0076677

Cite This Page:

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. "Researchers help make pediatric eye cancer easier to detect." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131106141304.htm>.
Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. (2013, November 6). Researchers help make pediatric eye cancer easier to detect. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131106141304.htm
Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. "Researchers help make pediatric eye cancer easier to detect." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131106141304.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) It's hard to resist those delicious but fattening carbs we all crave during the winter months, but there are some ways to stay satisfied without consuming the extra calories. Vanessa Freeman (@VanessaFreeTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) More than 100 motorcyclists hit the road to spread awareness messages about Ebola. Nearly 7,000 people have now died from the virus, almost all of them in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) The new year is coming and nothing will energize you more for 2015 than protein-filled foods. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) gives his favorite high protein foods that will help you build muscle, lose fat and have endless energy. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins