The examination under anaesthetic last week revealed that the tumours in Asa’s eyes have halved in size in the left eye and more than halved in the right eye since he began chemo.
|Retina scans showing tumours before and after the first two cycles of systemic chemotherapy.|
The retcam images show how the tumours have shrunk, and also changes in texture from diffuse blobs to gnarly, calcified masses.
This is encouraging, but there’s still a lot of cause for concern.
For one thing, systemic chemo has its greatest effects in the first cycles. So unfortunately we can’t expect this rate of shrinkage to continue through the remaining 4 cycles of chemo. As the ophthalmologist told us, the remaining chemotherapy is to prevent relapse.
The other cause for concern is seeding.
In the images, the constellations of little spots around the tumours are “seeds”: tumours-in-the-making that, if they’re not attacked, will grow bigger. These are a worry because (a) they’re so many of them and (b) they’re not well supplied by blood vessels, the way the big tumours were, so they won’t respond as well to systemic chemo, which relies on the circulatory system to deliver the drugs.
The seeds can be attacked in a variety of ways, including laser and cyrotherapy.
But there’s a delicate balance to be struck between the benefits these treatments can bring in terms of destroying the seeds, and the collateral damage they can cause in the process. Aggressive use of laser, for instance, might inactivate the seeds, but could also further detach the retina, which would cause problems of its own.
This is part of the reason why, after this first course of chemotherapy ends, Asa’s going to need to be examined under anaesthetic every month or 2 months for the next few years. The doctors will be trying to keep these seeds under control, using an appropriate level of focused therapy.
Where we are now
The day after the examination under anaesthetic, Asa received his third dose of chemo.
Now we have three down; three more to go.
|Asa and parents at the new Royal London Hospital, in Whitechapel|