Advances in Retinoblastoma Treatment

Retinoblastoma treatment often involves the use of a combination of procedures such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgery, cryotherapy, thermotherapy, and photocoagulation. Each of these treatments has seen advances that may indicate promising results for retinoblastoma patients. However, many retinoblastoma specialists are cautious to implement these new treatments until clinical studies can provide evidence of successful results with minimal risks or side effects. Newer techniques in radiation therapy and chemotherapy have become more popular over the past decade.

Radiation Therapy Advances

Radiation therapy is a common form of retinoblastoma treatment. In radiation therapy, high energy x-rays are delivered directly to the tumor, killing the cancer cells. There are two main forms of radiation therapy used to treat retinoblastoma: external beam radiation and brachytherapy, also known as plaque radiotherapy. One of the main concerns with radiation therapy is overexposure to radiation, which may contribute to the development of new cancer cells.

Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy

Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is a newer form of external radiation therapy that has gained attention from cancer experts. In intensity modulated radiation therapy, radiation beams are shaped and aimed at the tumor from different angles. The intensity of the beams is adjusted to limit the amount of radiation that reaches healthy tissues. In turn, doctors may be able to deliver higher doses of radiation to the tumor while reducing the side effects associated with unnecessary radiation exposure.

Chemotherapy Advances

Chemotherapy remains a staple in retinoblastoma treatment, as with other forms of cancer. Chemotherapy involves delivering chemotherapy drugs internally through injection or taking the drugs by mouth. Chemotherapy is often injected into veins and arteries. For retinoblastoma, chemotherapy treatment is often injected into or around the patient’s eye to deliver chemotherapy drugs directly to the tumor site.

Intravitreal Chemotherapy

Intravitreal chemotherapy is a type of retinoblastoma chemotherapy that involves the vitreous, or fluid that fills the eyeball. Intravitreal chemotherapy injects chemotherapy drugs directly into the vitreous. This process may be used to treat tumors which are widespread in the eye and have not been responsive to other types of retinoblastoma treatment. Intravitreal chemotherapy has been reported as particularly successful in patients with vitreous seeding. Vitreous seeding occurs when small pieces of the retinoblastoma tumor break off and “float” within the vitreous.

For decades, intravitreal chemotherapy was avoided by retinoblastoma specialists under the impression that this treatment posed more danger than benefit. However, results from new studies indicate that this technique achieved complete vitreous response in a high percentage of patients who underwent the procedure. This provides a promising outlook for retinoblastoma patients and treatment specialists.