Baylor profs’ eye cancer app literally saving kids’ lives
It’s been three years since we first wrote about Dr. Bryan Shaw’s research at Baylor on retinoblastoma, a form of eye cancer that primarily affects children under the age of 5 (including Shaw’s son, Noah). Last year, Shaw teamed with Baylor computer science professor Greg Hamerly to take his work a step further; together, the pair released an app that can actually help detect retinoblastoma by scanning your phone’s photos for “white eye,” an indicator of certain eye diseases.
Since then, Shaw (pictured above with his family; that’s Noah in his arms) has focused on sharing his app with parents, physicians and news outlets. People magazine featured him as one of their “Heroes Among Us”; earlier this month, he testified at a congressional hearing on health technology; and in Germany, the country’s best-selling newspaper picked up his story.
Spurred by the story, 10,000 Germans soon downloaded the “CRADLE” app. Of those thousands, 12 children went to the hospital after the app detected the telltale “white eye,” and of those 12, two were diagnosed with retinoblastoma — in time for the cancer to be easily treated. Here in the U.S., two more families used the app when they noticed something strange about their children’s photos; a subsequent doctor visit led to diagnoses of eye disease.
“We always say that if we save just one life of a child, then that’s worth all the work for many years, even,” says Monika Koenig, head of the board of trustees for the German Children’s Eye Cancer Foundation, where they are in the process of incorporating the CRADLE app into its pediatric practices. “I think the world had been waiting for someone whose child is affected by retinoblastoma, who wants to do something against this unknown disease, and who has the resources to do so.”
And next for Shaw? A tool to help visually impaired children – like those whose eyes have been damaged by eye cancer – learn chemistry.
Sic ’em, Dr. Shaw!