Putting chemotherapy directly into the blood vessel (artery) that feeds the eye and the tumor(s) is called intra-arterial chemotherapy. It also is called super selective intra-optic artery chemotherapy.
When medicines are put into the artery leading to the eye, doctors can use smaller doses compared to whole-body chemotherapy. The drug is delivered more directly to the tumor, with higher doses in the fluid of the eye. As a result, children have fewer side effects.
Fewer than 10 centers in the United States offer intra-arterial chemotherapy for retinoblastoma. Seattle Children’s is the only provider of this treatment in our 6-state region. We offer intra-arterial chemotherapy for children with all stages of retinoblastoma.
This treatment is used for children 9 months and older if there are no signs of cancer outside the eye. Younger babies have very small blood vessels. They receive whole-body chemotherapy instead of intra-arterial chemotherapy.
Your child will get medicine to make them sleep and not feel pain. Then the doctor places a very thin, flexible tube (catheter) into a blood vessel on your child’s thigh. The doctor threads the tube through the blood vessels, through the heart and into the arteries to the head until it reaches the artery that supplies blood to the eye.
The medicine your child receives depends on their cancer. Usually children start with a single medicine. If their tumor does not respond to this medicine, your child’s next treatments may include 2 more medicines. Your child will receive at least 2 treatments, 3 to 4 weeks apart. Your doctor will examine your child’s eye and tumor to decide if more treatments are needed.
At Seattle Children’s many children receive intra-arterial chemotherapy to shrink the tumor, which is then treated with freezing or laser.
Your child will receive intra-arterial chemotherapy at our hospital’s main campus in Seattle. After the procedure, we watch your child closely to make sure they do not have blood clots or other problems. Most children spend a night at our Cancer Care Unit for careful monitoring.