NHSE launches new tests for babies to detect eye cancer in the womb

NHS England has rolled out a new test designed to detect a rare form of eye cancer in babies in the womb, which can increase the chance of saving their eyesight and save lives, the organisation says.  

The new Non-Invasive Prenatal Diagnosis (NIPD) test, developed by researchers at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, identifies babies at risk of developing retinoblastoma. 

According to NHSE, the tests, taken from the mother before birth and analysed via a blood sample, can determine with ‘almost 100% accuracy’ if the baby will develop retinoblastoma, meaning parents can be informed early in pregnancy if their child is at risk. 

Once the test has identified the cancer, treatment can start on the affected eye as soon as the baby is born, with doctors closely monitoring the other eye to identify further risk.  

Amanda Pritchard, NHS Chief Executive, commented on the roll out of the new tests: “The introduction of this pioneering new test is fantastic news for babies and their parents, and has the potential to save hundreds of lives over the coming years. 

“Cancer is such a terrible illness and a baby being born with it can have a huge impact on parents and families during what should be an incredibly happy time, but backed by world-class innovation and services like the NHS Genomic Medicine Service, through the Long Term Plan the NHS is developing and delivering more cutting-edge treatments like this one to help save lives and keep families together”. 

Stephanie Allen Consultant Clinical Scientist, Birmingham Women’s Hospital, added: “An early diagnosis will allow clinicians to manage, monitor and prepare treatments much earlier which can transform the prognosis for the baby. 

“It will also give the family certainty and allow them to prepare for the birth knowing the support the clinical team will give them.”