Our Treatment Approach
Experts at MD Anderson have partnered with physicians at three other leading institutions to form the Retinoblastoma Center of Houston. This group forms one of the world's foremost teams of experts in caring for retinoblastoma. They will work together to develop a customized a treatment plan just for your child.
The team that treats your child for retinoblastoma will include a number of highly trained doctors, including oncologists, surgical oncologists and radiation oncologists. MD Anderson patients will also get skilled care from a group of dedicated professionals such as advanced practice nurses, physician assistants, therapists and social workers.
We offer a range of clinical trials for retinoblastoma. We are on the forefront of discovering new and better ways to treat retinoblastoma, and this can translate to better chances for successful treatment for your child.
Our Retinoblastoma Treatments
Doctors who treat retinoblastoma will tell you they have three goals, in order: Save the life. Save the eye. Save the vision. To achieve these goals, they can use the following treatments.
Laser treatment uses lasers to destroy the tumor. This is very effective for small tumors that are confined to the retina and do not involve the optic disc or the area near it, called the macula, which is the most important part of the retina for vision.
Cryotherapy uses a small probe to kill the tumor by freezing it. This is also a good option for small peripheral tumors.
Chemotherapy kills cancer cells or stops them from dividing. For retinoblastoma, chemotherapy may be used to shrink the tumor, making treatments like laser or cryotherapy more effective. For cancers that have spread outside the eye, doctors may prescribe high dose chemo with stem cell rescue. This is an aggressive treatment that uses stem cells to replenish blood cells destroyed by powerful chemotherapy drugs. Retinoblastoma chemotherapy is usually delivered in one of four ways:
- Intravenous: The drug is injected into a blood vessel and is pumped throughout the body.
- Intra-arterial: A catheter is inserted into a blood vessel near the groin and then steered through the body up to the eye, where chemo is directly delivered.
- Intravitreal: Chemotherapy is injected directly into the eye.
- Periocular: The drug is placed around the eye.
Radiation therapy is a very effective treatment for retinoblastoma. Radiation treatments for retinoblastoma include plaque therapy, where a disk with radioactive seeds is implanted on the outside of the eye near the tumor. Another option is proton therapy, a very advanced and precise treatment that limits healthy tissue’s exposure to radiation.
Enucleation surgery, or removal of the eye, may be performed when the tumor fills more than half the eye, when other structures in the eye are involved or when the retina is detached. Children who undergo this procedure are fitted with an ocular implant and later an artificial eye. Thanks to advances in detection and treatment, enucleation is not used as often as it once was.