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Intra-arterial chemotherapy for retinoblastoma: the beginning of a long journey


  • Presented as part of the Robert M Ellsworth Lecture, New York, NY on 19 November 2009 (CLS).

  • Support provided by the Eye Tumor Research Foundation, Philadelphia, PA (CLS).

Dr Carol L Shields, Ocular Oncology Service, Suite 1440, Wills Eye Institute, 840 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA. Email:


Conservative management of retinoblastoma has evolved from external beam radiotherapy to systemic chemotherapy by intravenous route and now to localized chemotherapy by intra-arterial route in some cases. With 16-year experience, systemic chemotherapy has been found effective for minimal to moderately advanced retinoblastoma with tumour control of 90% or better, few side effects and even hope for return of some vision. Localized intra-arterial chemotherapy with delivery under fluoroscopy and catheterization of the ophthalmic artery is now undergoing evaluation and appears to provide striking control for retinoblastoma, particularly recurrent tumour seeds following other therapies. The limitations and complications of this approach have yet to be defined. Toxicity of the chemotherapy to the delicate retinal vessels is unknown. Despite its allure, intra-arterial chemotherapy should be used with caution, as in other fields of paediatric oncology it has been found to provide no advantage over intravenous chemotherapy. Time will tell.