Triple Whammy Beats Childhood Cancer

Combination therapy effective against retinoblastoma, study finds

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TUESDAY, June 24, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- A combination of three therapies seems to successfully treat retinoblastoma, a deadly childhood cancer that begins as a tumor in the eye.

Treating patients with high-dose chemotherapy, radiation therapy and transplantation of blood-producing stem cells helps fight retinoblastomas that have spread to the bones, bone marrow and soft tissue, say researchers at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. The team reports their finding in the June issue of Ophthalmology.

Their study included four children with retinoblastoma. In all the children, the bone marrow disease went into remission after two courses of chemotherapy, which was followed by radiation and stem cell therapy.

Two of the children survived free of disease for more than six years. In the other two children, the cancer recurred in the central nervous system and they didn't survive.

"Our results show that retinal tumors that metastasize to other areas of the body can be cured. Chemotherapy by itself only results in transient improvement, with all patients dying of disease progression eventually, whereas chemotherapy in combination with radiation and stem cell therapies can actually save patients' lives," lead author Dr. Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo says in a news release.

"We believe more than 90 percent of patients can be cured with surgery if the disease is detected early enough, before the disease spreads," he adds.

Rodriguez-Galindo and other researchers are developing a national protocol that will apply these treatment principles to all children with retinoblastoma.

It's estimated that between 300 and 350 children in the United States are diagnosed with retinoblastoma each year. Of those, about 5 percent develop retinal tumors that spread outside of the eye.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about retinoblastoma.

SOURCE: American Academy of Ophthalmology, news release, June 24, 2003

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