Doctors Turn To New Cancer Treatment In Bid To Save Girl’s Vision

(CBS News) — A little over a year ago, Dania Snyder was a typical toddler, until her parents noticed something unusual about her right eye.

“You could see a little flash of a fleshy piece sort of through her pupil,” Dania’s father, P.J. Snyder, told CBS Boston.

That fleshy piece was a tumor known as retinoblastoma, or cancer of the eye.

“As parents, you hear ‘cancer,’ and if you don’t have it your family yet, it’s a bubble-bursting of a world that you didn’t know was so protected,” said Dania’s mother, Brianna Snyder.

Retinoblastoma is often cured by simply removing the eye, resulting in blindnesson that side. And despite the tumor, Dania’s vision is still good, so her parents decided to try to save her eye.

That often means intravenous chemotherapy with all the associated side effects, like nausea and hair loss, but doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital had something relatively new to offer: intra-arterial chemo, or IAC.

Dr. Darren Orbach is the Chief of Neurointerventional Radiology at Boston Children’s Hospital and Dania’s doctor.

“If you go right to the blood vessel supplying the target organ, even though the dose to the tumor is very high, you can give a total dose that’s quite low,” he explained. “So the rest of the body is not seeing that much drug, so they don’t get adverse effects.”

During the procedure, the patient is placed under general anesthesia. While asleep, doctors thread a tiny catheter through the groin, through the carotid artery and into the ophthalmic artery that supplies blood to the eye. Doctors then inject chemotherapy drugs directly into the eye.

Hours later, the patient is back up and running with virtually no side effects.

Last year, Dania underwent four successful treatments, but then the tumor came back. Her parents were disappointed but doctors haven’t given up, so she’s back at Children’s for another go.

“I’m actually quite optimistic with her,” Dr. Orbach said.

And while her parents are also optimistic, they know that ultimately, the most important goal is to save her life.

“It’s always been save her life, save her eye, save her vision,” said P.J. Snyder.

“I know that Dania will be successful in whatever she does and if she does have her eye or if she doesn’t have her eye, I think she’ll be fine,” Brianna said.

Dania is expected to undergo one more round of intra-arterial chemo and doctors should know in about six months if the tumor is gone.

See video, here.