New Studies Reveal Long-Term Vision-related Health Concerns of Survivors of Childhood Retinoblastoma and Brain Cancer

In 2 new studies, researchers investigate the long-term effects on survivors of childhood cancers with vision-related adverse effects. One study investigated the long-term health concerns of survivors of retinoblastoma; the second study assessed the long-term psychological and socio-economic effects of blindness in survivors of brain tumors. These reports were published online ahead of print in the journal Cancer.1

In the first report, investigators at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City assessed the long-term medical problems of adult retinoblastoma survivors (n=470) from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study whose cancers were diagnosed between 1932 and 1994 and were followed for an average of 42 years (doi:10.1002/cncr.29704). They compared the survivors with a cohort of unaffected persons matched for age, sex, and race (n=2377).

Increased risk of developing various medical problems, including second cancers, were seen in the adult retinoblastoma survivors compared with unaffected persons. The increased risk was predominantly specific to those who had the disease in both eyes. When vision problems and new cancers were excluded, however, risk of chronic medical problems in survivors whose disease was in only 1 eye was similar to those of matched persons in the unaffected cohort. Furthermore, most of the retinoblastoma survivors self-rated their general health as "excellent to good."

In a second study, a team of researchers report on data from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study regarding the long-term effects of blindness in children who had brain tumors (doi:10.1002/cncr.29705). Their study included 1233 survivors of childhood brain tumors, 22.5% of whom experienced visual impairment.

Psychological outcomes in adulthood were not affected by vision loss in childhood; however, survivors with blindness in both eyes were more likely to be unmarried, live with a caregiver, and be unemployed. More limited vision loss—affecting only 1 eye, for example—was not clearly associated with negative outcomes.

The researchers noted that current chemotherapy treatments improve vision for approximately one-third of children with brain tumors involving visual pathways. Vision is stabilized in another third of patients, and the remainder of patients will experience vision deterioration despite intense treatment.


1. What's in store for survivors of childhood cancers that affect vision? [news release]. EurekAlert! Web site. Posted January 11, 2016. Accessed January 11, 2016.

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