Kalli and Autumn's fight for sight

01 December 18

written by:

Yewande Omoniyi

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Kalli McAllister, 33, was diagnosed with retinoblastoma as a child and sadly lost an eye as a result. Her own diagnosis made her extra vigilant with her daughter Autumn and at 10 months old during a regular eye check it was discovered that Autumn too had eye cancer. Autumn is now undergoing treatment.

“Autumn is lucky because her cancer was spotted early. However, there are so many kids and parents in the waiting room whose situation is far worse than ours. It’s so important for parents to proactively look after their child’s eye health. If only one parent spots a symptom and acts upon it due to this campaign, it will have been a success.”

As well as helping to raise awareness, the McAllister’s have decided to donate samples of Autumn’s blood to a Fight for Sight funded research project. Kalli says: “we’ve got to help further doctors’ understanding and open more doors, so that no one has to lose their sight in future.” Thanks to new pioneering research funded by Fight for Sight, the prognosis for children like Autumn could be transformed.

Professor Majlinda Lako and her team at the University of Newcastle are creating a laboratory model of retinoblastoma using stem cell technology. The model will be developed from stem cells taken from blood samples and will enable researchers to gain information about which retinal cells are affected by the condition and how tumours progress.

If their work is successful, it will deepen our understanding of retinoblastoma, such as understanding early genetic changes and how tumours form. This could open the door to a range of new potential treatments and make existing ones more effective, for example, by helping to target chemotherapy so that more cells are reached.

Ultimately this research could keep children from losing their sight to eye cancer, and bring us closer to our goal of stopping retinoblastoma in its tracks.


What is it?

Glaucoma is the name for a group of eye conditions that cause sight loss because of damage to the optic nerve. This is the specialised cable that sends signals from eye to brain.

Retinoblastoma is a rare type of eye cancer which is most common in children under five. Approximately one child every week in the UK is diagnosed with retinoblastoma. In over 95% of cases the cancer can be successfully treated. However, 40% of children with retinoblastoma lose one eye. That’s why Fight for Sight is funding vital research that could help find new treatments to save the sight of children like Autumn.

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