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Metastases and death rates after primary enucleation of unilateral retinoblastoma in the USA 2007–2017


Background/aims Enucleation for retinoblastoma is performed less often in the past decade due to increasingly widespread alternative therapies, but enucleation remains an important option. There is a paucity of reports on the current incidence of metastases and metastatic deaths in unilateral retinoblastoma from US centres.

Methods Retrospective chart review at five tertiary retinoblastoma centres in the USA for unilateral retinoblastoma patients treated with primary enucleation, 2007–2017, with >1 year of follow-up or treatment failure.

Results Among 228 patients (228 eyes), there were nine metastases (3.9%) and four deaths (1.7%). The Kaplan-Meier estimate at 5 years for metastasis-free survival was 96% (95% CI, 94% to 99 %), and for overall survival was 98% (95% CI 96% to 100%). All metastases were evident within 12 months. Histopathology revealed higher risk pathology (postlaminar optic nerve and/or massive choroidal invasion) in 62 of 228 eyes (27%). Of these higher risk eyes, 39 received adjuvant chemotherapy. There were four subsequent metastases in this higher risk pathology with adjuvant chemotherapy group, with three deaths. Of the nine overall with metastases, seven (78%) showed higher risk pathology. All metastatic patients were classified as Reese-Ellsworth V and International Classification of Retinoblastoma Groups D or E. Initial metastases presented as orbital invasion in seven of nine cases.

Conclusions Primary enucleation for unilateral retinoblastoma results in a low rate of metastatic death, but is still associated with a 3.9% chance of metastases within a year of enucleation. Most but not all patients who developed metastases had higher risk histopathological findings.

  • epidemiology
  • retina
  • neoplasia
  • child health (paediatrics)

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