Silicone Oil May Help Treat Eye Cancer

Silicone oil applied inside the eye can block up to 55 percent of harmful radiation to prevent blindness in patients with eye cancer, a U.S. researcher says.

Dr. Scott Oliver, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, says eye cancer, a rare but devastating disease, can strike anyone — although fair skin and sun exposure can increase risk — at any time, and treatment often requires radiation that leaves half of all patients partially blind.

Oliver focused on choroidal melanoma of the eye, or uveal cancer, the most common and dangerous form of eye disease, which affects some 2,000 people annually. It can spread quickly to the liver and lungs and often can be fatal.

For treatment, physicians often use plaque brachytherapy in which surgeons attach a gold cap containing radioactive seeds to the white part of the eye.

“Radiation injures blood vessels and nerves in the back of the eye,” Oliver says in a statement. “Half of all patients are legally blind in 3 years in the treated eye.”

Oliver tried several substances to block radiation from striking critical structures while allowing it to hit the tumor.

The study, published in the Archives of Ophthalmology, finds silicone oil — already used to treat retinal detachment — could screen out a majority of harmful radiation.

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