HOUSTON (September 10, 2013)

Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital is pleased to announce that pediatric ocular oncologist Amy C. Schefler, MD, affiliated with Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, has performed a landmark procedure – administering intra-arterial chemotherapy to a young retinoblastoma patient – the first recorded instance of this ever being done in the state of Texas. By utilizing this state-of-the-art technique, Schefler is able to deliver treatment directly to the cancer site itself thereby avoiding the characteristically devastating side effects of standard systemic intravenous chemotherapy.

Pediatric patient poses with physiciansOn July 15, 2013, two-year-old Makayla Perez, who was suffering from bilateral retinoblastoma, traveled from San Antonio to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston to receive her first chemotherapy treatment intra-arterially. Within just three weeks, the masses decreased more than 50 percent in size and, according to Schefler, should only continue to shrink with more time.

“This is such an exciting milestone for the entire team here at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital,” said Schefler. “But more than that, we hope this patient’s success story will help raise awareness in Texas and surrounding states that these parents now have a place to bring their kids for this highly-specialized treatment.”

Retinoblastoma is a rapidly developing cancer that develops from the immature cells of a retina and is the most common malignant tumor of the eye in children of all races. In 90 percent of patients, it is diagnosed before the age of five. However, it is also a very rare disease; it is estimated that there are only 250 to 350 new cases a year in the United States and, because of this, there are only a handful of high-quality expert programs available to patients seeking treatment.

Surgical removal of the tumor is not an option in patients with retinoblastoma and, if left untreated, these tumors can lead to loss of vision, the need to remove the entire eye surgically, or even death. Not only is this minimally-invasive technology now allowing patients to keep the eye, in many cases it is also restoring the previously impaired or obstructed vision.

“Before two months ago, I’d never heard of this procedure,” said Makayla’s mother, Monica Perez. “When our pediatrician in San Antonio referred us to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital – the only institution in Texas even offering it – I was excited and hopeful. I’m so happy I listened to his suggestion. I’ll be forever thankful to Dr. Schefler and her team for their amazing talent and even more amazing results.”