Liver Tumor Center | Research & Innovation

Our clinical research program offers unique access to clinical trials in which children can receive the most up-to-date liver cancer treatments.

For patients with a new diagnosis of hepatoblastoma or hepatocellular carcinoma, we offer enrollment in the most recent collaborative Children’s Oncology Group consortium trial. Two of our physicians — Allison O’Neill, MD, and Christopher Weldon, MD, PhD — were actively involved in the development and implementation of the current international liver tumor trial entitled PHITT: Pediatric Hepatic Malignancy International Therapeutic Trial. This trial will study approaches to reducing treatment intensity for patients with low-risk disease and intensifying treatment for patients with high-risk disease. It will also collect and analyze tumor samples from enrolled patients with the hopes of identifying unique therapies.

Our Institutional Experimental Therapeutics group offers unique early-phase clinical trials for patients with relapsed or refractory disease.

Translational research

A major focus of our research program is the rapid translation of scientific discoveries from the laboratory to the bedside to benefit patients. Through this research, our physicians work to improve therapeutic approaches and outcomes for hard-to-treat tumors. This includes discoveries from our pediatric laboratories along with close collaboration with adult colleagues and those in the pharmaceutical industry.

Tumor biology studies

By conducting tumor biology studies, our researchers are contributing to a growing knowledge surrounding the make-up of these tumors. We are also investigating several leading-edge treatments, including biologic therapies that use the body’s immune system to fight cancer, delivering chemotherapy directly into the liver, and using extreme cold (cryotherapy) to destroy unwanted tissue. Khashayar Vakili, MD, transplant surgeon and preclinical researcher, is investigating how to grow liver tumors in mouse models, while other laboratory researchers seek to grow liver tumor cells in culture dishes and zebrafish models. This will allow novel drug testing that can inform additional therapies for hard-to-treat tumors.

Liver tumor registry

We have a prospective liver tumor registry, which allows us to collect important clinical information from our patients, assisting in the care of patients we treat years down the road. We offer genomic tumor profiling for every patient we see, allowing us to study relevant genetic pathways in large cohorts of children with these rare diseases. We hope to offer this option remotely for patients going forward.

Molecular pathology laboratory

Our molecular pathology laboratory will allow the rapid identification of rare liver tumors at the time of diagnosis while working to discover new genetic patterns useful for diagnosis and treatment in the future.