News : 2009 : August

Extremely Rare, New Surgery Helps Children with Eye Cancer


Christina Katsouris is a normal 7-year-old. She enjoys riding her bicycle, playing on the computer and swinging on the monkey bars. She never had any problems with her vision, but in February, Christina was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare childhood cancer that occurs in the retina of the eye. Timothy Murray, M.D., M.B.A., F.A.C.S., an ocular oncologist at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, teamed up with Ali Aziz-Sultan, M.D., director of neuroendovascular surgery at UM/Jackson, and Cristina Fernandes, M.D., a pediatric oncologist at Holtz Children’s Hospital, to treat Christina’s cancer with a new, rarely used technique.

Rather than using traditional chemotherapy on the entire body, which can cause side effects such as nausea, hair loss and bone marrow suppression and requires at least nine months of treatment, the doctors directly injected a lower dose of the chemo into Christina’s ocular artery. To do this, a super-thin catheter – about the size of a piece of angel hair pasta – is inserted through the groin. The catheter is then threaded up to the aorta, bypassing the heart, into the blood vessels in the neck and brain, and then into the artery that supplies blood to the eye. The 30-minute procedure is done under general anesthesia and most patients are discharged from the hospital the next day with no side effects.

With this surgery and a few follow-up laser treatments, Christina is now cancer-free, with 20/20 vision.