Retinoblastoma is a primary intraocular tumor, or eye tumor. It is the most common type of these tumors in children, with 350 new cases diagnosed in the United States each year. Retinoblastoma can affect one or both eyes, and in some cases involving both eyes, patients will also have a tumor in their pineal gland within their brain. Prior to the development of the current treatments, retinoblastoma was unfortunately nearly universally fatal.
Today, however, with improved chemotherapies and other new treatment strategies, the survival rate of children with retinoblastoma in the United States is over 95%. Because of this, we can shift our focus from preservation of life to preservation of the eye and preservation of vision with increasingly good results.
The Retinoblastoma Program at Children’s Hospital Colorado consists of a multidisciplinary care team that can provide all of the current treatment options under one roof. Using state-of-the-art equipment and treatment protocols, combined with appropriate follow-up treatment and management, our team can tailor treatment to each patient individually and maximize their chance of a full and happy life.
Why choose us for retinoblastoma care
At Children’s Colorado, your child receives high-quality cancer care from a team of specialists dedicated to improving outcomes and making the treatment process as easy as possible. Our multidisciplinary retinoblastoma team includes:
- Ophthalmologist/ocular oncologist
- Ophthalmology nurses
- Oncology nurses
- Interventional Radiologists
- Genetic counselor
- Social workers
- Child Life specialists to minimize stress on procedure days
Advanced retinoblastoma treatment options
Children with retinoblastoma undergo frequent eye exams to ensure the disease is diagnosed early and is responding appropriately to treatment. These exams may include:
- Exams under anesthesia to monitor response to treatment every 1 to 3 months
- Special imaging to take photographs of the retina and tumor(s)
- Ultrasound of the eyes
- MRI and angiogram of the eyes and brain
Families also work with the genetic counselor to understand the results of their retinoblastoma genetic testing and learn more about screening other family members if needed.
Retinoblastoma is treated in a variety of ways, based on the unique characteristics of each patient’s disease and their response to each treatment. At Children’s Colorado, we offer all available current treatment strategies, which include:
- Laser therapy for smaller tumors
- Cryotherapy for smaller tumors (freezing the tumor)
- Systemic chemotherapy (through an IV)
- Intravitreal chemotherapy (injecting medication directly into the eye)
- Intra-arterial chemotherapy
- This is one of the newest treatment options for retinoblastoma. Chemotherapy drugs are injected into the eye through the eye’s main blood vessel (ophthalmic artery) rather than subjecting the patient’s whole body to chemotherapy through an IV. This takes a team of trained specialists in oncology and radiology and has been available at Children’s Colorado since 2017 with good outcomes in controlling the disease as well as saving the eye.
- High-dose chemotherapy with autologous stem-cell transplant
- Radiation therapy
- Plaque therapy (a focal radiation plaque is placed on the eye to focus the radiation directly on the tumor)
- Enucleation (surgical removal of an eye with large tumors and high risk of metastasis or spread beyond the eye)
- These patients are connected to an ocularist, someone who creates a prosthetic eye after surgery.
Who we treat in the Retinoblastoma Program:
We treat any patient from infancy to adulthood with a retinoblastoma diagnosis who is currently undergoing active treatment or is in remission undergoing maintenance examinations. We also evaluate patients with a genetic predisposition or strong family history of retinoblastoma to ensure prompt diagnosis and treatment if the disease develops.
Call the Department of Pediatric Ophthalmology at 720-777-2020 or the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at 720-777-6740 for more information.