Current Environment:

Treatment for retinoblastoma has improved dramatically in recent years, improving the chances for a successful recovery (more than 95% of children survive). The Retinoblastoma Program at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center offers the latest in diagnosis and treatment options, as well as access to a wide range of pediatric subspecialists to help our patients manage the rigors of treatment and effectively transition back into their lives.

How we approach retinoblastomas

To diagnose retinoblastoma, our doctors perform a complete eye exam and a funduscopic exam so the entire eye can be viewed and examined while your child is under anesthesia. They also perform various imaging studies to produce detailed images of the eye. During diagnosis, our doctors will determine the number, size and location of tumors and if they have spread. Genetic counselors meet with patients’ parents to discuss the possibility of taking a blood sample to look for the abnormal retinoblastoma gene and confirm the diagnosis.

Once diagnosed, most children are successfully treated, and many treatments can help to save sight in the affected eye. Standard treatments include chemotherapy, surgical removal of the eye (if the cancer does not respond to other treatments), cryotherapy (cold) and thermotherapy (heat) to treat small tumors, and radiation therapy.

Intra-arterial chemotherapy, a newer treatment available at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's in which the medicine is injected directly into the main blood vessel of the eye, minimizes the amount of contact the chemotherapy has with the rest of the body. This treatment can reduce side effects and kill more cancer cells in fewer treatments. The average number of treatment sessions is about three for each eye, delivered every four weeks.

Our retinoblastoma treatment specialists

Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s patients have access to the broadest set of pediatric and oncologic expertise available. The breadth of our expertise allows us to assemble a team of specialists to meet the specific needs of each patient.

At the core of the treatment team is a pediatric oncologist who specializes in treating children with retinoblastoma. Many of our physicians are also active researchers, so our patients have access to the very best and up-to-date treatments available.

From there, we build a team that is best suited to carry out the patient’s treatment plan, including pediatric ophthalmologists, surgical oncologists, pediatric oncology nurses, radiation oncologists, and interventional radiologists.

We round out the team with experts who help the child prepare for life during and after treatment, including psychologists, child life specialists, social workers, nutritionists, and school specialists.

Retinoblastoma research & clinical trials

Our clinical research program offers unique access to clinical trials in which children can receive the newest retinoblastoma treatments. A major focus of our research program is the rapid translation of scientific discoveries to the bedside to benefit patients. Through this research, our physicians work to improve therapeutic approaches and outcomes for children with retinoblastoma.