Retinoblastoma Program

The Retinoblastoma Program in The Vision Center at Children's Hospital Los Angeles was established more than 30 years ago. Today it is the global resource for physicians and families facing a diagnosis of pediatric eye cancer.

The Retinoblastoma Program has been instrumental in identifying the genetic mutation causing retinoblastoma and has recently developed a new classification system to describe the disease. Dr. Murphree has developed a technique to deliver chemotherapy into the eye without the need for injections or intravenous infusions. The hope is that this will allow better treatment for more aggressive tumors that will often go on to result in total loss of vision or the eye.

Achievements in Retinoblastoma

  • In 1987, identification of the gene that causes retinoblatoma (Rb).
  • The invention of the RetCam more than 20 years ago. The device is now used worldwide for delicate surgery in the back of the eye.
  • First in the nation to offer gene testing for all retinoblastoma patients, and the first to offer a prenatal diagnosis for the disease.
  • Pioneered the concept of chemoreduction (reducing the volume of intraocular retinoblastoma with systematic chemotherapy followed by eradication with focal laser or freezing heat).
  • Spearheaded the formation of a new core facility in the Saban Research Institute, which will use proteomics to search for novel serum markers that herald the onset of new cancers.
  • Development of a new drug delivery system to treat chemotherapy directly to the eye. 

Retinoblastoma Research

These studies, under the direction of Dr. Murphree, focus primarily on cutting-edge treatments using photochemotherapy - in which chemotherapy is administered, then activated in the tumor with light. Other investigations led to the development of a new classification system for retinoblastoma that can closely predict treatment outcomes.

Research into retinoblastoma at Children's Hospital Los Angeles has made tremendous progress in the outcomes for patients. Previously, children diagnosed with retinoblastoma typically lost at least one eye, and often lost their lives. Today, the prognosis has vastly improved and eyesight can often be saved.