Vascular Anomalies Center Research and Innovation

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The Vascular Anomalies Center at Boston Children's Hospital conducts research that has led to the development of new, more effective therapies-and may some day result in ways to prevent these anomalies.

  • Basic research in angiogenesis (new blood vessel formation) is conducted in the laboratories formerly headed by Judah Folkman, MD, who was Scientific Director of the Vascular Anomalies Center and Julia Dyckman Andrus Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. Investigators are focused on the cause--the trigger mechanism--that initiates the growth of hemangiomas.
     

  • Dr. Joyce Bischoff, in Dr. Folkman's Vascular Biology Laboratory, is the principal investigator trying to solve the mystery of the cause of infantile hemangiomas. She and her team work closely with Dr. Bjorn Olsen and the Craniofacial Biology Laboratory at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. Their investigations are based on the working hypothesis that hemangioma begins as a mutation in a stem cell. All three laboratories collaborate closely with the Molecular Genetics Laboratory at Universite cathlique de Louvain in Brussels, Belgium (headed by Dr. Miikkaa Vikkula).

  • The Boston-Brussels laboratories discovered the first gene that causes familial venous malformations (TIE2), another gene responsible for a more common form of cutaneous hereditary venous anomalies (glomuvenous malformation), and a gene for familial capillary-malformations with arteriovenous malformations and some forms of Parkes Weber syndrome (RASA1). These basic researchers are using tissue culture techniques and creating models of vascular anomalies in mice to understand the abnormal molecular signaling that cause malformed vascular channels. Someday soon, this basic science knowledge will be applied to control, and possibly prevent, vascular anomalies.
     

Clinical research conducted by investigators in the Vascular Anomalies Center has resulted in new, more effective treatments. For example, the center's investigators were the first to use interferon alpha in the treatment of children with large life- or vision-threatening hemangiomas.

  • Dr. Mulliken has described a simple technique for removal of hemangioma leaving a smaller scar than with conventional methods.
     

  • Dr. Fishman has developed novel approaches to control intestinal bleeding caused by certain colorectal vascular malformations, such as blue rubber bleb nevus syndrome. 

  • Dr. Alomari, employing a superlative combination of clinical, radiologic and interventional skills, has discovered several new conditions, includes CLOVES Syndrome, and pioneered new approaches to treatment.

Recently, a new paradigm developed by VAC clinicians has improved the understanding and treatment of frequently fatal liver hemangiomas

Boston Children's Researchers Identify a Genetic Cause for Cloves Syndrome

Using advanced technologies, a multidisciplinary research team consisting of geneticists, pathologists and surgeons at Boston Children's Hospital has identified the genetic basis for CLOVES syndrome, a rare congenital malformation and overgrowth disorder.

Learn more.

Innovation

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The Vascular Anomalies Center at Boston Children's Hospital:

  • offers the latest diagnostic and treatment approaches, some of which were pioneered by our staff

  • provides comprehensive consultation services to physicians and families worldwide, including referrals to local medical centers and physicians when appropriate

  • conducts basic and clinical research aimed at improving the care of all children with these disorders

  • provides the latest information about vascular anomalies through scientific articles, books, lectures, and one-on-one consultation with physicians and families

  • supports a fellowship in vascular anomalies, the only such program in the world, to train the next generation of physicians to carry on its mission.

An interdisciplinary team

The Vascular Anomalies Center (VAC) at Boston Children's is composed of a unique interdisciplinary team of 26 physicians, representing 18 departments, who have developed sub-sub specialization in the field of vascular anomalies. Many of these physicians are internationally renowned for their expertise and innovative contributions to this highly specialized field. All physicians hold faculty appointments at Harvard Medical School, representing the following specialties:

Our team collaborates in the evaluation and management of patients with vascular anomalies. This team approach ensures that each patient's treatment plan is carefully developed and coordinated with the expertise of our specialists in vascular anomalies and in other medical areas throughout the hospital.

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The future of pediatrics will be forged by thinking differently, breaking paradigms and joining together in a shared vision of tackling the toughest challenges before us.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO
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