A recent study showed that corneal nerves in the sub-basal plexus were reduced in patient with cancer who were treated with oxaliplatin or paclitaxel, two neurotoxic chemotherapy drugs which can commonly cause nerve damage in the hands and feet. This nerve damage is termed chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) and is often debilitating, with symptoms of numbness and tingling severely affecting the quality of life of affected patients.

The cross-sectional study which was conducted by our PhD candidate, Jeremy Chiang, along with the IN FOCUS neuropathy research team based at the Prince of Wales Hospital. Laser scanning confocal microscope was used to observe the corneal nerves in these patients who have already ceased chemotherapy treatment but most were still affected by peripheral neuropathy. Of clinical importance, the observed corneal nerve reduction was associated with worse fine hand dexterity, an indication of worse peripheral nerve function. The study further raises the possibility of using in-vivo corneal confocal microscopy in monitoring nerve function or peripheral neuropathy development and progression during treatment with neurotoxic chemotherapy.

For more information on the IN FOCUS study which involves multi-institutional collaboration across Australia with the aim of finding more effective assessment and treatment strategies for CIPN, please visit their website at https://www.infocusstudy.org.au/. You can read the article here: https://doi.org/10.1167/tvst.10.1.24