Materia Medica Malaysiana

January 29, 2007

Malays more prone to genetic form of eye cancer

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:44 am

NST: KOTA BARU: It is estimated that at least one in 15,000 children here are prone to develop a genetic form of eye cancer.
Most die by the time they are six years old because they are diagnosed too late, or not at all.
Retinablastoma is caused by an abnormality in the gene of the same name.
And the sad thing is that most of these deaths are preventable with a simple test at birth.
Many parents take their children to traditional healers when they start to show symptoms, so they are treated too late.
Researchers at Univeriti Sains Malaysia have also found that the rate of retinablastoma is higher in the Malay population.
USM Human Genome Centre director Dr Zilfalil Alwi said: “We discovered that the Malay genetic make-up is more prone to single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), an abnormality in the Retinablastoma gene which causes the disease.”
This was discovered in a two-year research project involving 36 retinablastoma patients aged three months to seven years. Twenty-nine of them were Malay.
“The disease is easily detected after birth with a simple eye scan. But many of our hospitals are not told to do this.
“When the symptoms start appearing and the child’s eyes start to look strange, parents, especially in rural areas, take them to a bomoh instead of the hospital.
“By the time they bring these kids to the hospital, it’s too late,” Zilfalil said.
Based on Western estimates, one in 15,000 Caucasian children are afflicted, but the figure is probably much higher here.
The genetic abnormality is more common in Malays, and there are few statistics because most cases go undiagnosed.
Zilfalil added that early detection could save lives. The disease can be treated with radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Children diagnosed in time have gone on to lead healthy, fulfilling lives.
“All that is needed is for more rigorous screening of babies at birth.
“And the retinablastoma test is very simple. It can be performed by a general practitioner.”

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