Retinoblastoma (RB) is a rare form of cancer affecting the retinal photoreceptor cells. Although the disease is very rare, it is the most common ocular malignancy in children and the third most common cancer to affect children —- occurring in one out of every 15,000 births. In the United States, 250 to 350 new cases are diagnosed each year —- 90 percent of which occur in children under five years of age.
There are two types of retinoblastoma; one is hereditary and affects both eyes (occurs in 10% of cases) and the other type is non-hereditary and affects only one eye. Although the cancer is genetically determined, only 6 percent of newly diagnosed RB patients are found to have a positive family history of the disease. In all cases, genetic counseling is important for children with a germ-line mutation.
Early detection of RB greatly enhances the possibility of a cure and the preservation of the greatest amount of vision. The treatment of RB depends on the size and location of the tumor and whether one or both eyes are involved. Treatment options include laser, chemotherapy, radiation, and removal of the eye. With earlier detection and improved treatments, the prognosis for vision and life for RB patients has improved significantly in the past twenty years. If left untreated, RB rapidly expands to fill the eye, extend along the optic nerve to the brain, and ultimately causes death.
Bascom Palmer Eye Institute is recognized as one of the foremost eye centers involved in national studies to evaluate and coordinate newly developed theories and therapies, including RB, related to ocular cancer. We are one of four international institutions coordinating the International Clinical Trial on Chemotherapy for Retinoblastoma, which is funded by the National Cancer Institute.
Jean-Marie Parel, Ph.D., Bascom Palmer’s internationally renowned Director of Ophthalmic Biophysics, is pursuing two major innovations in eye cancer treatment. The first is a laser that is custom-designed to fight eye cancer; the second is a new delivery system for chemotherapy treatments. Dr. Parel and his team of ocular biophysicists are working closely with Bascom Palmer physicians on the application of these new technologies for treating and curing patients with eye cancer.
Over the last decade there has been a revolution in ophthalmic treatment for ocular tumors. Bascom Palmer Eye Institute has been a leader in the application and study of new treatments. In addition to our comprehensive clinical and research team, we have the advantage of access to resources in the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Courtelis Center for Psychosocial Oncology and Jackson Memorial Hospital. Given this comprehensive integration of in-depth expertise, basic and clinical research, and patient-oriented care, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute will continue to lead the world in the development and application of ocular cancer care.