Surgeons can use a new technique to prevent blindness when treating patients with eye cancer, according to a study published in Archives of Ophthalmology (2010 Jul;128(7):888-93).

For the study, Scott Oliver, MD, assistant professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, focused on choroidal melanoma of the eye and experimented with a series of substances that would block radiation from affecting critical structures while allowing it to hit the tumor.

Using silicone oil, which is already used to treat retinal detachment, Dr. Oliver discovered that when applied inside the eye, the oil can block up to 55% of harmful radiation, enough to prevent blindness in most patients. 

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“We are now at the point where we can embark on a clinical trail,” Dr. Oliver concluded. “This is a significant development in the way we treat this disease. In the past, we could save the eye with radiation but we saved vision only half the time. With this treatment, I believe we will do much better in the future.”

According to background information provided in the press release announcing the findings, choroidal melanoma of the eye is a condition that affects over 2,000 people each year and can spread quickly to the liver and lungs, which is often fatal.