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Intra-arterial Delivery of Chemotherapy for Retinoblastoma Saves Eyes

Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital is the only hospital in the south-central United States offering intra-arterial chemotherapy as a routine service for the treatment of retinoblastoma, a rare pediatric eye malignancy that affects only 250 to 350 new patients each year.


The treatment requires a large multispecialty team that involves close collaboration between endovascular neurosurgery, ocular oncology and medical neuro-oncology.

“Having the capability to inject chemotherapy directly into the arteries that feed the eye eliminates the side effects of systemic chemotherapy and maximizes the therapeutic dose to the eye,” says endovascular neurosurgeon Mark Dannenbaum, M.D., an expert on cerebrovascular surgery and neurointerventional techniques and an assistant professor of neurosurgery at UTHealth Medical School.

“The technique is very new and a paradigm shift in the treatment of retinoblastoma. Before its development, removal of the eye was the standard-of-care treatment for retinoblastoma that had not metastasized.”

To initiate the procedure, Dr. Dannenbaum places a microcatheter into the ophthalmic artery using a neuroendovascular technique. He collaborates with Amy Schefler, M.D., an ocular oncologist and retina specialist affiliated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, who infuses a high concentration of chemotherapy directly into the tumor bed.

“This is exciting and groundbreaking clinical work,” he says. “We’re saving eyes and providing a cure for this treatable type of cancer.”