New therapy may help cancer patients

March 2, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
You might not know it but melanoma can affect your eyes. In fact, it's the most common and most dangerous form of eye cancer in adults.

Molly Larkin's kids are the focus of her life, but eye cancer could keep her from watching them grow Up.

Llarkin said, "I just, I just, don't dwell on the what-ifs."

Molly was diagnosed with ocular melanoma ten years ago. She was treated and thought she was in the clear.

"By the time we got to 8 years I wasn't too worried about it anymore," Larkin said.

But a routine exam showed Larkin was among the 50 percent of patients in whom the fatal cancer spreads to the liver. Once that happens, Doctor Carin Gonsalves says the outlook is grim.

Dr. Carin F. Gonsalves said, "Their overall survival is less than six months with a one year survival of about 13 percent."

Now a new therapy, immunoembolization, could improve those odds. Doctors inject an immune system booster directly into the arteries that supply blood to tumors in the liver. The booster blocks blood flow and starves the tumor.

"This GM-CSF stimulates the body's immune system to recognize the tumor as foreign and therefore kill it," Gonsalves said.

The technique is prolonging life expectancy from less than six months without treatment to an average of two years, time this mom is thankful for.

The injection is not a cure. Because of the aggressive nature of this cancer, patients often need treatment for life.