Remembering Dr. A Linn Murphree


Sunday March 13, 2022 | updated Friday May 27, 2022


Linn Murphree, in suit and tie

With heavy hearts, we share the news that Dr. A Linn Murphree, Professor of Ophthalmology, first Division Chief of Pediatric Ophthalmology, and Director of the Retinoblastoma Program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and University of Southern California, passed peacefully on March 9th, 2022.

Linn, as he was known, was a tremendous force in ocular oncology, known for his role in cloning of the RB1 gene, and his passion and purpose for treating children with retinoblastoma.

Following his training as a Fulbright Fellow in Human Genetics at the University of Copenhagen, Dr. Murphree began his medical training at Baylor College of Medicine with an established interest in human genetics. He discovered ophthalmology in medical school, and an abiding interest in pediatrics. He combined those three interests by focusing on ophthalmic genetic diseases, including retinoblastoma, during his ophthalmology residency.

At the end of his fellowship at Johns Hopkins Hospital, he found his first and only professional post. He assumed the Division Chief of Pediatric Ophthalmology position at CHLA, USC.

With his first NIH grant, he demonstrated by deletion mapping that the RB1 gene was located in chromosome 13q14. Subsequently, he developed a clinical referral practice focused on ocular oncology, and created the largest retinoblastoma referral center west of the Mississippi at CHLA – a center that is still thriving.

During his retinoblastoma clinical practice, Dr. Murphree recognized an unmet clinical need for a wide-field retinal camera to document the intraocular findings associated with retinoblastoma. He recruited a team of optical engineers. The result was the invention of the RetCam®, a commercially available pediatric retinal camera used worldwide to document retinoblastoma and many other retinal abnormalities, including retinopathy of prematurity.

Dr. Murphree’s work on chemo-thermotherapy, published in 1983, was a model for retinoblastoma treatments using intravenous chemotherapy combined with local therapies. He is the author or co-author of more than 70 essential papers on retinoblastoma genetics and retinoblastoma care. He received many accolades during his career, including the prestigious Stallard Award from the International Society of Ocular Oncology in Paris in 2015, and the Helen Keller award for the impact of RB1 gene cloning in 2018.

Dr. Murphree enthusiastically participated in the first One Retinoblastoma World meeting hosted by WE C Hope, held in London, England, in 2012.  He led the session “Psychosocial Care: Healing the Whole Child”, and presented research on Post Traumatic Stress in children treated for retinoblastoma.  This work was completed by his long-time colleague, Nancy Mansfield, founding Executive Director of the Institute for Families at CHLA, who died in 2010.

He will be remembered with great affection and gratitude by our WE C Hope team, by hundreds of children, survivors, and their families for whom he cared deeply, and by the many doctors he trained to do the same, who now practice around the world.

Celebration of Life

On Saturday, May 14, 2022, colleagues, patient families, retinoblastoma survivors, and friends gathered at All Saints Church, Pasadena, and online from around the world to share in the celebration of Linn’s life and legacy .

In Memoriam Gifts

In lieu of flowers, please consider supporting Linn’s retinoblastoma research and care program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Online Gifts

  1. Visit www.CHLA.org/donate
  2. Select the box “Specify a program for this gift to support (optional)”.
  3. Note “Linn Murphree/retinoblastoma” in the memo box.

Mail Your Gift

Checks can be sent to:

CHLA, c/o Mr. Terrence Green

4650 Sunset Boulevard

Mail Stop #29

Los Angeles, CA 90027

Please include the designation “Linn Murphree/retinoblastoma” to direct your gift.

A. Linn Murphree Endowed Lecture

On Friday, May 13, 2022, Francis Munier, M.D. delivered the inaugural A. Linn Murphree Endowed Lecture at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.  After sharing his memories of training and working with Linn, and learning from him, Prof. Munier spoke on his team’s “Ten-Year Experience with Intra-Cameral Chemotherapy for Aqueous Seeding in Retinoblastoma: Long Term Efficacy, Safety and Toxicity”.   In his talk, he:

  • detailed the risks of treating aqueous seeding,
  • identified features within the eye that indicate high risk for extraocular tumour spread (eyes needing enucleation),
  • identified features that indicate potential for safe treatment,
  • Described and demonstrated the process of Intra-Cameral Chemotherapy,
  • Shared data on eye salvage and visual outcome for children.

WE C Hope provides a brief explanation for readers unfamiliar with aqueous seeds, and why they are so tricky in retinoblastoma care:

The aqueous is a small chamber of protective lubricating fluid at the front of the eye, divided in two by the iris. The anterior chamber lies in front of the iris, and the posterior chamber around the lens. Behind the lens is the larger, gel-filled vitreous, and together, they give the eyeball its shape.

New aqueous fluid is constantly being produced in the anterior chamber.  Old fluid leaves the eye in equal measure, draining into the bloodstream, so normal eye pressure is maintained.

Seeds are fragments that break off the main tumour and float into other parts of the eye, like crumbs from a cookie.  Seeding to both the vitreous and the aqueous is common in retinoblastoma, but aqueous seeding frequently leads to enucleation due to the high risk for tumour spread from the anterior chamber into the bloodstream, along with the old aqueous fluid that naturally drains out of the eye.

Francis Munier discussed a treatment approach his team has focused on in the last decade, with the goal of safely treating eyes that have seeding in this very high risk location at the front of the eye.

2 replies
  1. Diane Hubbard says:

    What a wonderful man. He treated my son Michael starting at 3 weeks old. that was way back in 1983. He had an assistant named Ben who I wish I could have remained in touch with.

    Reply
  2. Gernene Alonso says:

    Dr. Murphree SAVED my life. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for his persistence and kindness. I am forever grateful. I remember being a terrified 8 year old going in and out of Children’s hospital. Now, I have reached 35 and I am loving life thanks to him. Gracias totales!

    Reply

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