Health Beat: Disfiguring tumors in infants vanish

Health Beat: Disfiguring tumors in infants vanish

CLEVELAND - It's not magic. It's medicine that's making tumors disappear in babies. Now, an old drug is being used in a new way to make these tumors go away.

Ten percent of newborns will develop hemangioma, a benign tumor, like Myla Hershey. Neither her parents nor her doctors noticed anything at first.

"When she was born, we couldn't see it at all," said Jennifer Hershey, Myla's mom.

However, at three months, "it was like a big slab of meat on her forehead and it was actually weighing her eyebrow down," Hershey said.

Until now, doctors would treat the tumors with steroids, chemotherapy, and surgery, but doctors in France were treating a heart patient with a common beta blocker. The side effect was that it also caused the child's hemangioma to fade away.

"It affects these infantile hemangiomas by killing the hemangioma cells and restricting the blood vessels that feed them," said Dr. Alex Golden, pediatric cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital.

Golden is now using it to treat babies in the United States.

"The day we start the medication, the hemangiomas stop growing," Golden said.

Myla took three liquid doses of the beta blocker a day and within just a few days, her mom started to see the tumor disappear.

"It started to fade first, get lighter, and to shrink," Hershey said.

Now, after a year on the medicine, Myla has just a little reminder left and doctors said it will not come back.

Right now, doctors are only using the beta blockers on infants; 100-percent of the tumors in the last 75 patients stopped growing or got smaller.  Doctors don't yet know if the treatment will have the same effect on older children and adults.

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