Patient Story: Eye Saved From Enucleation Through Eye Cancer Network

It comes as no question eye cancer care is not readily available in all corners of the world, hence the work and mission of The Eye Cancer Foundation. This is especially true of countries in the Middle East, where more aggressive forms of treatment may be the only option for otherwise treatable cases.

In 2014, this became the reality of a two-year-old girl living in Iraq. Due to retinoblastoma, doctors were forced to remove the toddler’s left eye. Then, as retinoblastoma was found in her right remaining eye, her parents were told it too had to be removed. The girl’s father, however, refused to allow for a second devastating and life-altering procedure that would leave his daughter without sight.

In search of an alternative, he reached out to ECF Executive Director Paul T. Finger, MD. This father and daughter were put in contact with former ECF fellow Yacoub Yousef, MD, an ophthalmic oncologist at King Hussein Cancer Center in Amman, Jordan. There, his daughter could have subspecialty eye cancer care and be watched in Iraq afterwards. Throughout the next year, Dr. Yousef used his skills to save the eye, destroying the cancer with a combination of systemic chemotherapy and subsequent focal laser photocoagulation of the tumors.

This month, now seven years later, the young girl attended one of her routine follow-up appointments. Thanks to Dr. Yousef’s skills, her tumors are controlled and her vision, in an eye that was to be removed, is now 20/20. 

The story does not stop here. While the child’s life and vision were saved, treatment offerings in Iraq still needed improvement. Utilizing a Retinoblastoma Fellowship Grant from The Eye Cancer Foundation, Dr. Yousef has been working to host and teach an Iraqi ophthalmologist in Jordan. This doctor will train under him and thus take Dr. Yousef’s knowledge back to an unserved country, Iraq. While war and the COVID-19 pandemic have delayed Dr. Yousef’s ability to train any fellow or doctor in-person, he has spent the past two years virtually helping treat patients throughout the Middle East and in Pakistan.

Let us paraphrase an old saying, “treat a child from Iraq and you cure a patient, teach an Iraqi ophthalmologist how to treat children with retinoblastoma and you will cure thousands for a lifetime.” This case, amongst many others, demonstrates the importance of international collaboration and education in eye cancer treatment. While many countries lack the resources necessary to treat eye cancer, our network of doctors has been able to provide assistance via telemedicine and trained fellows to help patients such as this one. 

This case goes to show how your investment in fellowship education personally touched a family and, in turn, has allowed a nine-year-old daughter to now see her father. The Eye Cancer Foundation is committed to continuing this support. 

Receive the latest news and opportunities from The Eye Cancer Foundation. Please fill out the form below.