What is retinoblastoma?

Retinoblastoma is a rare childhood cancer of the eye. It arises from the retina, the nerve tissue in the back of the eye that is sensitive to light. Thanks to advances in diagnosis and treatment, more than 95 percent of children with retinoblastoma that is contained in the eye can now be cured. Retinoblastoma is usually diagnosed before the age of 2 and more than 90 percent of cases are diagnosed by age 5 — it is equally common in boys and girls. Tumor(s) may be present in one or both eyes, and rarely spreads to other parts of the body and may be inherited within a family or may occur in a child without any family history of the disease. Retinoblastoma is rare — about 250-300 children in the United States are diagnosed each year.

How we care for retinoblastoma

Through our Retinoblastoma Program, children with retinoblastoma receive treatment from a multidisciplinary team of oncologists, ophthalmologists, interventional radiologists, and other subspecialists with expertise in retinoblastoma. Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center is an integrated pediatric oncology program that provides all the services of both a leading cancer center and a world-renown pediatric hospital.

We offer the full range of multidisciplinary treatment options for retinoblastoma, including intra-arterial chemotherapy – a recently-developed treatment option that often can provide the most effective retinoblastoma treatment with the fewest side effects. Our neurointerventional radiology team carries out one of the highest volumes of pediatric brain and head and neck angiographic procedures (including intra-arterial chemotherapy) in the world.

What is the latest research for retinoblastoma?

New types of treatment are being tested through clinical trials. A clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or to obtain information on new treatments. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may then become the standard treatment. We also have studies open to address how best to screen children with cancer predisposition syndromes including retinoblastoma.