An effective treatment could finally be on the way for a rare cancer of the eye. Ocular melanoma strikes 2,000 Americans each year.
Forty-three-year-old Sabrina Frey is a mother of four boys. She has ocular melanoma, which has spread to her liver. She knows she may be short on time.
She has scoured the internet in search of anything that will prolong her life. “I tried lots of different things. I had a liver resection. I tried immunotherapies,” she said.
Now she’s trying percutaneous hepatic perfusion or PHP. Jonathan Zager, M.D., a surgical oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, has done this procedure on about 60 patients.
Dr. Zager said during surgery the liver is blocked off from the rest of the body, then saturated with high doses of chemotherapy through a catheter for 30 minutes. A balloon prevents outflow from the liver.
“We filter the chemotherapy laden blood outside the body and then the clean blood returns to the patient with another catheter in their neck,” explained Dr. Zager.
Sabrina has done PHP three times. She can do it up to six times about every eight weeks.
Dr. Zager said, “we keep on going to second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth procedure as long as they’ve tolerated the previous procedure well.”
It’s working for Sabrina. Her tumors are shrinking. “Some tumors are not actually even visible on my MRIs anymore,” she said.
Dr. Zager said so far most patients are responding well to this treatment.
“I just have to hold on long enough till they find a cure, Sabrina said.
Dr. Zager said the earlier patients start this treatment the better. Candidates for this procedure must have good liver function and not many tumors. If ocular melanoma is localized to the eye, prognosis is good. But 50 percent of ocular melanoma cancers spread.