Predicting Growth of Birthmarks
(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A new study shows a urine test could help doctors understand the progressive nature of a disfiguring birthmark. The study also gives hope to a possible new drug treatment for these patients.
Vascular anomalies are birthmarks caused by abnormal development of arteries, capillaries, veins or lymph vessels. They include both vascular malformations and vascular tumors such as hemangiomas. About 10 percent of infants are born with hemangiomas. They are known to grow fast in the first year of life and then usually shrink and disappear. However, some can grow large, quickly causing problems. There are no effective drug treatments.
Researchers at Children's Hospital Boston studied a family of enzymes called matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) required for the growth of new blood vessels. They looked at whether MMPs could be an indicator of growth for vascular anomalies.
For the study, researchers tested the urine of 217 patients with vascular anomalies and 74 healthy patients. They found more than half of the patients with vascular tumors and 41 percent of the patients with vascular malformations had elevated levels of MMPs, compared to 22 percent of the healthy participants. Furthermore, they discovered those with vascular anomalies had elevated urine levels of basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF). Both MMPs and bFGF promote angiogenesis or the growth of new blood vessels. Researchers say an increase in both MMPs and bFGF correlated with both the extent and progression of vascular anomalies. Study authors say this means a urine test could help doctors understand if an anomaly will do nothing or if it will progress and destroy nearby tissue.
In the 1980s, Children's Hospital Boston researchers showed the growth of hemangiomas is known to be angiogenesis dependent and can be suppressed with drugs such as corticosteroids. This new study suggests angiogenesis also plays a role in the progression of vascular malformations. A Phase I trial of MMP inhibitors is now being conducted in patients who are not candidates for other treatments.
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SOURCE: Pediatrics, 2005;116:38-45