Types of Liver Tumors in Children

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MSK Kids has exceptional experience caring for children with all types of liver tumors, including:

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Hepatoblastoma

Hepatoblastoma is the most common type of liver tumor in children. It is diagnosed in about 100 children each year in the United States, most often before age 3. Hepatoblastoma is more common in children with very low birthweight, so the increasing survival rates of children born extremely premature has contributed to an increase in hepatoblastoma cases.

Children with the following syndromes may have a higher risk of hepatoblastoma:

  • hemihyperplasia
  • Aicardi syndrome
  • Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome
  • familial adenomatous polyposis — children who carry the APC gene, which causes FAP, have an 800-fold increased risk of hepatoblastoma 

Mutations in other genes can also raise the risk of hepatoblastoma. For most children with hepatoblastoma, however, there is no known inherited cause.

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Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC)

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common type of liver cancer in adults, but it is much less common in children and often occurs without any underlying liver diseases, such as liver scarring (also known as cirrhosis) or viral infections that are more typical of HCC in adults. We care for children and young adults with HCC according to the Children’s Oncology Group recommended treatment program, which includes surgery, chemotherapy, and often therapies that target specific genetic mutations found in pediatric liver cancers.

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Fibrolamellar Hepatocellular Carcinoma

MSK Kids has particular expertise in the care of young people with fibrolamellar HCC, a subtype of HCC generally seen in teenagers and young adults. Our team cares for three to four people diagnosed with this cancer each year, and we have more experience caring for them than many places. Fibrolamellar HCC is caused by a genetic abnormality in which one gene (DNAJB1) gets mistakenly fused to another gene (PRKACA). MSK Kids’ Michael LaQuaglia, one of the world’s leading pediatric surgeons, was part of the team that identified this gene fusion. We are also researching new and more effective treatments for this rare cancer.

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Undifferentiated Embryonal Sarcoma of the Liver

Undifferentiated embryonal sarcoma of the liver is very rare. It accounts for 2 to 15 percent of pediatric liver tumors and usually occurs in children between ages 5 and 10. It can also arise in young adults. It most commonly spreads through the liver and/or to the lungs. We use surgery and chemotherapy to cure most people with this disease with a unique approach that we have found works well in treating most patients with this rare tumor.

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