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The University of Chicago Medicine - Comer Children's Hospital

Pediatric Cancer: Retinoblastoma

The University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital provides comprehensive care for children with retinoblastoma, a rare, but highly curable cancer of the eye. Our pediatric cancer care team and pediatric ophthalmologists offer state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment services.

Advanced Expertise

As a member of the cancer care team, pediatric ophthalmologist Mark Greenwald, MD, is a recognized expert in retinoblastoma. And, as active members of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), our physicians network with more than 250 medical centers worldwide. We participate in clinical trials of the newest, most promising treatments for all childhood cancers, including retinoblastoma.

About 40 percent of retinoblastomas are hereditary. The highly specialized Familial Cancer Clinic at the University of Chicago offers genetic testing and counseling for retinoblastoma patients and their families.


Comer Children’s offers complete diagnosis and treatment for retinoblastoma. As one of the busiest pediatric cancer programs in the Midwest, we have the expertise and resources to care for children with any type of retinoblastoma.


The first step in diagnosing retinoblastoma is an ophthalmoscopic eye exam performed by a pediatric ophthalmologist. With the child under general anesthesia, the pupils are dilated so the entire retina can be examined to determine the location, size, and extent of the eye tumor. The exam is followed by a CT scan and/or MRI scan to look for involvement of tissues outside of the eye. The scans also help confirm the diagnosis of retinoblastoma.

When tissue samples are taken, pathologists at the University of Chicago confirm the diagnosis and assist in the process of procuring tumor tissue for genetic testing.


The treatment for retinoblastoma is individualized for each patient depending on factors such as involvement of one or both eyes, the tumor size or location, and the stage of the disease. The primary goal is to treat the tumor and stop the spread of the cancer. The treatment plan is designed to save the eye and vision whenever possible. For each patient, the ophthalmologist, medical oncologist, and radiation oncologist design a treatment plan that may include the following:

  • Laser treatment
  • Cryotherapy (freezing treatment)
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Enucleation surgery (removal of the eye)

Some children will be eligible to participate in clinical trials. These treatment protocols are part of a nationwide, National Cancer Institute-sponsored effort to evaluate and monitor newer therapies.

Support Services

Retinoblastoma patients sometimes need additional support services, including fitting for a prosthesis and low-vision training. Our social workers can help coordinate resources to meet these needs. Children with cancer often have ongoing medical, emotional, social, and developmental needs. Our doctors, nurses, social workers, and child life specialists recognize these issues and can provide your family with the resources and tools to keep you informed, find assistance, and help you cope.

Our Team

Our multidisciplinary team provides comprehensive clinical care for patients, supportive care for their families, and ongoing lab research.


Comer Children’s provides important resources to help children and their families live with cancer.

Child Life Program

Kids want to feel like kids, even when they are sick. Our Child Life specialists use play, art, and other approaches to take some of the scare away from the cancer experience and to help kids feel as normal as possible.

Ronald McDonald House

Located near Comer Children’s, the Ronald McDonald House provides a home away from home for families with hospitalized children.