Economic Backbone: Cancer Care
UF Health's plaque therapy spares healthy tissue in eye cancer patients
Through a precision radiation procedure called plaque therapy, UF Health can save the eyes of patients with eye cancer.
Used to treat patients with uveal melanoma, plaque therapy delivers tightly focused radiation to the precise location of the tumor without destroying other eye tissue.
“If you go back just 25 years, patients were having their eyes removed because they had cancer,” says Dr. Gibran S. Khurshid, an ophthalmology specialist and associate professor at the University of Florida College of Medicine.
With plaque therapy, an ophthalmologist delivers radiation to the tumor using a gold implant about the size of a contact lens. Known as a radioactive iodine plaque, the implant delivers tiny radioactive seeds, typically half the size of a grain of rice, to the melanoma.
The procedure requires two appointments 96 hours apart. In the first procedure, the doctor inserts a “dummy” plaque to establish a precise location and contact with the melanoma. In the second procedure, the dummy is replaced with the radioactive plaque. Then, the plaque is stitched into place, where it remains for four days and delivers precise doses of radiation to the tumor.
Though the process can be painful, only one treatment is required, and “the success rate is almost 99%,” Khurshid says.
Currently, eye cancer affects about six patients per million, which represents about 3,320 new cases each year, according to the American Cancer Society.