Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Professor creates app that detects eye cancer in children

Baylor chemistry professor Bryan Shaw and computer science professor Greg Hamerly, are hoping their newly launched iPhone app will speed up the detection of a form of eye cancer in children.

It was officially launched in Apple’s App Store on Oct. 22. It scans photos on an iPhone or iPad and searches for white pupils, or leukocoria, which is a symptom of retinoblastoma, a cancer that affects children up to age 5.

Baylor University chemistry professor Bryan Shaw draws with his son Noah, 6. Shaw was inspired to create a White Eye Detector app after Noah was diagnosed with retinoblastoma as an infant, a rare cancer that can be detected by the appearance of white pupils in photos.

It can also directly scan a child’s eye and detect leukocoria. Leukocoria becomes apparent in photos as the camera flash bounces off tumours in the back of the eye, creating the white pupil in the image.
A white eye can also indicate cataracts in children and adults, as well as Coat’s disease, a condition the causes abnormal growth in blood vessels behind the retina which can lead to blindness.

Often the first sign of retinoblastoma that is noticed is leukocoria, a whitening of the pupil that looks like a "cat's eye". This whiteness can be seen in certain lighting conditions. It is often noticed in photographs of the child taken with a flash, which usually causes the eyes to appear red in the picture. Instead of the normal red reflex, you may notice a white pupil in the photo, which comes from the white surface of the tumor itself.

Examples of leukocoria:

Leukocoria is the most common sign of retinoblastoma and can be seen in 60% of patients. Other signs may include strabismus or crossing of the eyes, which is noticed in 20% of children. Furthermore, in approximately 10% of children, eye swelling with pain and redness occurs. (Photo of leukocoria)
Children with this rare cancer require the most advanced testing and management to ensure the cure of the cancer with preservation of the greatest amount of vision. Specialized testing is very important to confirm diagnosis, as there are no blood tests available to confirm a diagnosis of retinoblastoma. Unlike tumours in other parts of the body, a biopsy cannot be performed due to the risk of spreading cancer cells outside the eye.

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