THURSDAY, July 15 (HealthDay News) -- Shielding the eye with
silicon oil may safeguard the eyesight of patients who must undergo
radiation therapy for an eye cancer known as ocular melanoma, new
Although the study authors caution that more research is needed,
they say that their current investigation reveals that the
pre-radiation procedure appears to absorb about 50 percent of
radiation rays that might otherwise hit the back and sides of the
eye and cause irreversible damage.
"Vision loss is a devastating yet common side effect of radiation therapy," vitreoretinal surgeon Dr. Tara McCannel, an assistant professor of ophthalmology and director of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Ophthalmic Oncology Center at the Jules Stein Eye Institute, said in a UCLA news release. "Until recently, physicians focused on killing the tumor and considered vision loss secondary. Our results suggest that silicon oil offers a safe tool for protecting the patient's vision during radiation," she added.
The finding is reported in the July issue of the
Archives of Ophthalmology.
Ocular melanoma takes hold under the retina and is the most
common adult eye cancer. Standard treatment involves the surgical
application, and subsequent removal, of radioactive "seeds" to the
white of the eye. Although effective at killing cancer cells, the
process can also cause central vision loss by doing irreparable
harm to optic nerve fibers and blood vessels.
"If patients survive the cancer, more than half will suffer vision loss in the treated eye six months to three years later," noted McCannel.
However, McCannel's team found that such risk can be
significantly minimized by pre-surgical application of FDA-approved
silicon oil shields around the interior of the eye. Post-surgery,
the silicon is washed away with saline, and ultimately replaced by
the patient's natural fluids.
The authors note that such silicon shields are already commonly
used in retinal surgery. In addition, they found that the process
does not hamper the effective use of radiation to attack tumor
For more on eye cancer, visit the
American Cancer Society.