Focal Treatment for Retinoblastoma

If your child has a small retinoblastoma that’s contained within the eye, an eye cancer specialist at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone may recommend focal therapies. These procedures can shrink or eliminate eye tumors while preserving vision.

There are several different types of focal therapies, all performed in the hospital using general anesthesia. Our anesthesiologists are experts in treating very young children, including infants.

Laser Therapy

Also called photocoagulation or transpupillary thermotherapy, this type of treatment involves using the heat of a laser beam aimed through the pupil and onto the blood vessels supplying the tumor. In order to eradicate the cancer, this procedure may need to be repeated two or three times, with a month between sessions to allow the body time to adjust to treatment.

Laser therapy may be performed in conjunction with chemotherapy, which shrinks the tumor by destroying cancer cells.


In cryotherapy, a small metal probe the size of a pencil is cooled to extremely low temperatures. It is placed on the outside of the eye, beneath the tumor, to freeze and destroy cancer cells. The procedure is used only on small tumors. It may be repeated two or three times, with a month or two between procedures.

Cryotherapy can be used with chemotherapy or as a stand-alone treatment.

Managing Side Effects

The goal of focal therapy is to treat the tumor without damaging healthy tissue. Because the eye is sensitive, side effects may occur, depending on the type of therapy used and the location of the tumor. They can include eye swelling, a detached retina, blind spots, blurred vision, bleeding, eye scarring, or a loss of vision.

Our eye cancer specialists carefully weigh the risks and potential benefits of each type of focal therapy before choosing one for your child.

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