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Potential Breakthrough Therapy For People With Common Form Of Eye Cancer

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- On the HealthWatch there is a potential breakthrough for people who have the most common kind of eye cancer.
Health reporter Stephanie Stahl has the story of the first patient to have this new light-activated therapy being tested at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia.

46-year-old Edward Tuggle from Hazleton, Pennsylvania is the first patient to get a revolutionary treatment for ocular melanoma.

"It's kind of a shock when you hear you have eye cancer," says the father of 3 children.

Tuggle says he regrets not getting his eyes checked for 6 years but he is relieved to be receiving a promising treatment and he has high hopes for a cure.

"Today we were the first in the U.S., the first in America to use a new medication for treatment of melanoma," said Dr. Carol Shields of the Ocular Oncology Department at Wills Eye Hospital.

According to Dr. Shields until now there were limited treatment options for ocular melanoma.

"This could be a real game changer," she said of the new medication.

It's a photodynamic therapy with a drug that is injected into the eye.

Then a laser light activates the drug to kill the cancer while preserving vision.

The method is very precise with limited collateral damage.

"I'm glad to be part of something that's so innovative," says Tuggles.

The clinical trial is evaluating safety as the first step in testing the treatment.

It could take a couple of months to know if it works.

"If it doesn't work at least we're moving forward to where later on, maybe it's one child or another adult or another life at this point to be saved what they learn from what happens to me," Tuggles said.

"This is kind of like the light at the end of the tunnel, actually making some big headway where we can cure small tumors perhaps and even prevent melanoma down the road," says Dr. Shield. "It's exciting."

Twelve people will be enrolled in the trial that will be completed in 2 years.

The therapy has been given fast-track status by the Food and Drug Administration because of its potential to be so helpful to so many people.

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