Download a pamphlet on Retinoblastoma
Retinoblastoma is a rare pediatric eye cancer with only 250-350 new patients per year in the U.S. There are very few centers of excellence for this disease in the U.S. We are one of the few centers in the country performing all cutting-edge treatments for this disease and are the only center in Texas doing so. All the care of these children is performed by Dr. Schefler at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.
Retinoblastoma comes in several forms. It can be:
- Familial (run in families, be passed on from a father/mother to a son/daughter
Retinoblastoma can be:
- Germinal – there is a mutation in an important gene in every cell in the body, leading to a high risk of cancer in both eyes as well as other cancers in other parts of the body. Generally the disease can be passed from the patient to his/her children.
- Non-germinal/somatic – there is only a mutation in a gene in a retinal cell, so there is no risk of tumors in the other eye or in other parts of the body. Generally the disease cannot be passed from the patient to his/her children.
Retinoblastoma can be:
- Unilateral – one eye only. In patients with one eye involved, the disease can be familial or non-familial and can be germinal or non-germinal. (see above)
- Bilateral – both eyes. In all patients with bilateral disease, the retinoblastoma is always of the germinal type (see above) and can potentially be passed on to the patients’ children.
Retinoblastoma is usually first detected by a mother or father or other caregiver when leukocoria (white pupillary reflex) is noticed in person or on flash photography. Sometimes the first sign is an in-turning or out-turning of one or both eyes. If your child has any of these symptoms, he/she should be seen by an ophthalmologist right away.
After a child is referred to our team for a possible retinoblastoma, the child is brought to the operating room for an examination under anesthesia. While your child is asleep under anesthesia, we examine your child’s eyes thoroughly as well as perform many sophisticated imaging tests such as ultrasound, photography, and fluorescein angiography. These tests allow us to make the correct diagnosis as well as track precisely the growth of any tumors that are found.
Retinoblastoma can be treated in different ways including:
- Chemotherapy (intra-arterial, intravenous, intravitreal, periocular)
- Laser therapy
- Cryotherapy (freezing therapy)
- Radiation (External beam or plaque therapy)
- Enucleation – surgical removal of the eye
Here at RCH, every patient’s treatment is tailored specifically to him/her.
Intra-arterial Chemotherapy for Retinoblastoma
We are excited to introduce our new retinoblastoma program at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas. This is a cutting-edge center for this disease and we are the only hospital in the entire South Central U.S. offering this modern approach to treating patients with this disease, intra-arterial chemotherapy. This treatment, first invented in Japan and then brought to the U.S. five years ago, enables children to have chemotherapy injected directly into the arteries that feed the eye, rather than into the entire system, eliminating the complications that are normally seen with chemotherapy (fevers, low blood counts, loss of hair, infertility, etc.) and maximizing the dose to the eye. As a result, children are admitted to the hospital less often and we are able to save more eyes from having to be removed.
This disease requires a large multi-specialty team with expertise in treating these children. We have over 50 genetic counselors, nurses, technicians, OR staff, and others who all meet regularly to discuss our patients. Children’s Memorial Hermann is a welcoming, warm place for families where patients routinely rave about their experiences even in times of crisis.
We are also performing cutting-edge research at our center, looking for new ways to save eyes that have failed conventional therapies in the past. As a result, families come to us from all over the region when others have told them that there are no more treatment options.
To schedule an appointment, please call 713-524-3434 or 800-833-5921. Please ask to be directly connected to Maru, Dr. Schefler’s oncology coordinator.