News Release: Emory Healthcare, School of Medicine

Apr. 21,  2009

Emory's 11th Annual RB Picnic Celebrates Lives of Children Who Have Survived Eye Cancer

The 11th annual RB Picnic, coordinated by Emory Eye Center, will be held from  9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, May 9, at WD Thompson Park, off Mason Mill Road in Decatur. This special event promises a day of fun and celebration for both the young patients and their families who have faced this formerly fatal childhood cancer of the eye called retinoblastoma (RB).

A tumor of the retina (the back of the eye), RB can be hereditary or non-hereditary. When hereditary, it can affect both eyes and sometimes other organs of the body, whereas the non-hereditary type will usually only affect one eye. RB mainly affects young children and occurs in one in 20,000 live births. In its most serious form, it can metastasize to other parts of the body, resulting in death. In decades past, RB often meant certain death for these children. Today’s statistics are much more heartening. In fact, today more than 90 percent of RB children survive the disease.

"Having cared for the majority of children with retinoblastoma in the state of Minnesota for 10 years prior to coming to Emory Eye Center, I have developed a very strong appreciation for the team approach of highly skilled experts that care for families affected by this condition," says Timothy W. Olsen, MD, director of the Emory Eye Center.

"In the Southeast, Emory offers the best possible care by providing the combined expertise of a highly skilled pediatric retina surgeon, Baker Hubbard, MD, along with an experienced pediatric oncologist, a radiation oncologist, a genetics counselor and a host of consultants," he says. "Using these approaches, the survival rate for retinoblastoma now exceeds 90 percent, and we are also saving more vision than ever before."   

On May 9, some 45 to 60 young patients, typically ranging in ages from infancy up to 12 years of age, and their families come from all over Georgia and the Southeast—and sometimes as far away as Europe. The highly anticipated day of celebration includes clowns, food, pony rides and Happy Tails pet-assisted therapy.

"I really look forward to this event," says Hubbard. "It is great fun to have all the children and families together in a non-medical atmosphere where we can all relax and enjoy the activities together." Dr. Hubbard has worked with RB children and their families since coming to Emory Eye Center in 2000.

"This event is so special because it provides those parents who may have a child with newly diagnosed retinoblastoma the realization that this disease can have an outcome that is extremely positive," says Rhonda Waldron, diagnostic echographer at the Emory Eye Center, who organizes the RB Picnic each year.  "Even in the event that their child has to have an enucleation (removal of the eye), by coming to RB Kids Day these parents have the opportunity to meet other families and share their experiences. 

"They get to witness for themselves how great the other children look cosmetically with their prosthetic eyes, and even more importantly, see that these are normal, happy, playful children. By meeting the more experienced parents who have successfully dealt with their child’s diagnosis, they see that there is so much to be hopeful about. And the kids all have a great time!" she says.

"I’m excited to meet the families at this wonderful event," says Dr. Olsen. "Under the leadership of Dr. Hubbard, I’m very optimistic for continued advancements in the field. I believe that new and even better therapies will develop. This is a wonderful day to celebrate success and remain hopeful for an even brighter future."



Children who have survived Retinoblastoma, their families, and Emory Eye Center staff

Saturday, May 9, 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

WD Thompson Park, 1760 Mason Mill Rd., Decatur

If you would like to interview a family, contact Joy Bell by May 1 at 404-778-3711.


About Emory Eye Center

The Department of Ophthalmology and Emory Eye Center have a mission to conduct pioneering research into blinding eye diseases, to educate and train eye professionals, and to provide excellent patient care. The Department includes 35 ophthalmologists, seven optometrists, nine basic scientists, 11 post-doctoral fellows, and nine researchers in other Emory departments who hold joint appointments in the Department of Ophthalmology. Ophthalmology research is supported by $6 million in NIH funding. The Department remains in the top rankings (#9 – 2008) by U.S. News & World Report for the 12 years the magazine has held a ranking for Ophthalmology. It also ranks in the Top Ten in all four categories surveyed by Ophthalmology Times annual report.


The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service. Its components include schools of medicine, nursing, and public health; Yerkes National Primate Research Center; the Emory Winship Cancer Institute; and Emory Healthcare, the largest, most comprehensive health system in Georgia. The Woodruff Health Sciences Center has a $2.3 billion budget, 17,000 employees, 2,300 full-time and 1,900 affiliated faculty, 4,300 students and trainees, and a $4.9 billion economic impact on metro Atlanta.

Learn more about Emory’s health sciences:
Twitter: @emoryhealthsci

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