Researchers Identify Achilles Heel of Common Childhood Tumor

Cancer Research, News — By on November 19, 2008 at 9:38 am

Researchers have, for the first time, found a mechanism for the rapid growth of the benign blood vessel tumor known as infantile hemangiomas, the most common tumor found in children. 

The tumors, which are made up of proliferating blood vessels, affect up to 10 percent of children of European descent, with girls more frequently afflicted than boys. 

The growths appear within days of birth—most often as a single, blood-red lump on the head or face—then grow rapidly in the ensuing months. The development of infantile hemangioma slows later in childhood, and most tumors disappear entirely by the end of puberty. However, while the tumors are benign, they can cause disfigurement or clinical complications.  This new research offers hope for the most severe of these cases, pointing at a potential, non-invasive treatment for the condition.

These findings, the result of a collaboration between scientists from Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Children’s Hospital Boston, and the de Duve Institute at the Catholique University of Louvain in Brussels, will be published October 19 in Nature Medicine.

The cause of infantile hemangioma tumor growth has been a mystery until now, and invasive treatments have been the norm. 

This study is the first to describe a mechanism that impacts tumor growth, and the therapy it suggests would be a non-invasive alternative to current methods, which can cause permanent scars. Read more

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