Chemical Biology Special Seminar

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"Can Smart Phones Prevent Metastatic Retinoblastoma in Children?"

Bryan Shaw, PhD
Baylor University

This seminar will describe our ongoing efforts to use digital photography to improve the detection and diagnosis of retinoblastoma (Rb). Retinoblastoma is an intra-ocular cancer that afflicts 8,000 children every year and kills 4,000 children (worldwide). Approximately 90 % of deaths occur in resource-limited settings due to late diagnosis at the metastatic stage. Retinoblastoma is usually not fatal if it is diagnosed before metastasis to the brain. The cardinal symptom of retinoblastoma is the appearance of an abnormal white pupillary reflex (leukocoria), including the appearance of “white eye” during flash photography. Parents of children with Rb have demonstrated (anecdotally) that digital photography can be an effective tool to detect leukocoria and initiate the diagnosis of retinoblastoma. Digital photography has, however, not been formally scrutinized or harnessed to improve the screening, detection, and assessment of retinoblastoma. This seminar will show that leukocoria—as detected by a parent with a consumer-based digital camera—can be a symptom of retinoblastoma in its earliest stages. The seminar will conclude with a discussion of a software application that we have created for the iPhone and iPad. The application can detect leukocoria in pictures that are stored anywhere on the device, or can detect leukocoria in real time, thus helping to ensure that this potentially serious symptom never goes overlooked.

For more information, please see Abdolvahabi et al. PLOS ONE 2013; 8(10):e76677, or visit:




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