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A Precisely Targeted Attack on Eye Cancer

Using ultrasound waves to reach a tumor at the back of the eye (left), the team plans to generate only enough heat to release drugs at the tumor site (right). (Images courtesy of Shutao Wang)

A team of GW researchers is working to harness the heat of ultrasound waves to develop a new, highly targeted treatment for a childhood eye cancer.

The disease, retinoblastoma, is a cancer of the retina—the collection of nerve cells at the back of the eye that sense light and transmit images to the brain via the optic nerve. About 300 children each year in the United States are diagnosed with the disease, according to the American Cancer Society; in some cases, retinoblastoma may develop in both eyes.

Treatments exist, but the group of scientists from GW’s School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Medicine and Health Sciences are designing a therapy they hope will be much more controlled and precisely targeted, capable of hitting a bull’s eye smaller than a grain of rice. The approach, they say, will be less likely to result in damaged vision or loss of the eye, and result in fewer side effects.

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