By Mo Hammoud

General information

Retinoblastoma is a type of cancer that develops in the eye of very young children. Essentially what happens is when the child is developing in the womb the cells that fill the retina called retinoblasts begin dividing to create new cells. Eventually these cells are supposed to stop and mature so they can specialize and detect light but with retinoblastoma the cells don't stop dividing which causes a tumor. Unfortunately since it is far in the back of the eye it's very close to the optic nerve which causes it to spread through the optic nerve. Medulloepithelioma is another type of cancer that affects the eyes but it differs from retinoblastoma by starting out in the front of the eye instead of the back, it also doesn't spread like retinoblastoma but it does cause eye pain and loss of vision.


One of the major symptoms is spotting the malignant tomur in the back to the eye, also some smaller symptoms include the pupil turning white when light shined on it, lazy eye, or redness. The most common way to test for this cancer is to shine a light into the pupil and see if it turns white, if it does then an MRI will be conducted to see if the child has the tumor.


After being diagnosed the most popular treatment in the early stage is chemotherapy by injection, this includes the injection of vincristine, etoposide, and topotecan. There are also other procedures that can be done if you're into a pretty late stage which is removement of the eye and replace it with artificial eye, and laser coagulation as well as freezing the tumor.


Usually the treatment for retinoblastoma is very effective especially in the early stage so death from this cancer is rare, but if left untreated the patient is only expected to survive 5 years after diagnosed. The main way of treating it is usually through surgery and because of this the eye is usually spared.

Risk Factors

This disease is spread in 2 ways, the main way being through genes and the other less common way is sporadic. When it's spread genetically the cancer is located on the 13q choromosome and is caused by an early mutation of the q gene. A less common way of seeing this disease being spread is sporadically which means the gene mutated on its own.

Research and Studies

In 1986 scientists found the gene RB1 that was responsible for almost all retinoblastoma cases, and now they are researching trying to see if they can conduct gene therapy which would repair, reconstruct, or counteract this gene. This procedure would have to be very small and accurate in order to make sure we fix what need to fix and harm anything else.