Stories about: Liver Tumor Program

What you need to know about liver tumors in children

Young boy in hospital for liver tumor treatment
Ziad was treated for hepatocellular carcinoma by a team at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. “It is exceedingly rare for hepatocellular carcinoma to occur in a child of Ziad’s age,” says Dr. Allison O’Neill.

Pediatric liver tumors are rare, comprising only 1 percent of all childhood cancers. There are two main types of liver tumors in children:

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Innovative treatment for a large liver tumor saves Ziad

Young boy in hospital for liver tumor treatment
Ziad right before his second TACE procedure

Ziad Selbak was a pint-sized patient with a huge medical challenge. In March 2017, the two-year-old was diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), an aggressive form of liver cancer rare in young children.

But specialists at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center were ready to take on the challenge. They collaborated on an innovative application of transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) — an established treatment for adults — to deliver chemotherapy directly to Ziad’s large tumor and stabilize his condition with the ultimate goal of liver transplant.

It all started in February 2017, when Ziad took a tumble on a toy at his family’s home in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

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Our patients’ stories: Denny is a hit at Fenway

Denny Schoonmaker recently addressed an audience of over 30,000 people—a pretty big accomplishment for anyone, but especially impressive for a child who has only been speaking in full sentences for twelve months.

At last Friday’s Boston Red Sox game, Denny told a packed Fenway crowd that it was time to “play ball,” a fantastic way to thank the city that has been his and his family’s second home for the better part of the past year.



A young boy with an old man’s walk

At 2 years old, Denny started hunching his shoulders when he toddled across his home in North Carolina, which his mother Mandy affectionately dubbed his “old man walk” the first time she saw it. But as the hunch became more pronounced—and became accompanied by a hardened belly—Mandy worried it could be the sign of a more serious problem, so she took Denny to the hospital.

Tests were ordered and revealed that Denny had hepatoblastoma, a form of liver cancer usually found in young children. Doctors explained to Mandy and Doug, Denny’s father, that treatment for hepatoblastoma usually involves a combination of chemotherapy to stabilize or reduce the cancer cells in the body and surgery to takeout the diseased areas of the liver (a technique know as a liver resection.) In situations where the cancer is particularly aggressive, a liver transplant may be the patient’s only chance at recovery.

Within three chemotherapy sessions, it was clear that Denny’s cancer was aggressive enough that a liver transplant was likely to be his best option.  At just 2 years old, the young boy was prepped for what would be the first of many surgeries in his young life.

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