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Urine test may help monitor disfiguring birthmarks

Vascular anomalies birthmarks caused by abnormal development of arteries, capillaries, veins or lymph vessels can sometimes begin to progress, requiring aggressive treatment to save the child's health or vision. Research at Children's Hospital Boston now suggests that urine testing can help monitor these anomalies and predict those about to become a serious threat. The findings, published in the July Pediatrics, also raise the possibility of new drug treatments for aggressive cases, particularly for hard-to-treat vascular malformations.

Vascular anomalies include both vascular malformations and vascular tumors (most commonly hemangiomas). Hemangiomas, found in about 10% of infants, occur when the cells lining blood vessels multiply abnormally, forming clusters of vessels. Hemangiomas grow rapidly in the first year of life, then usually shrink and disappear. But some grow quite large, causing obstruction, ulceration and other problems. Vascular malformations occur during fetal development and include lymphatic, venous, arteriovenous and capillary malformations. They usually grow in proportion to the child, but sometimes progress during adolescence or pregnancy, or after surgery or trauma, in rare instances becoming fatal. There are currently no effective drug treatments.

Marsha Moses, PhD of Children's Vascular Biology Program, senior investigator on the study, had been studying the matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), a family of enzymes required for angiogenesis, or growth of new blood vessels. Angiogenesis is critical to a cancer's expansion, and Moses' lab was the first to show that inhibitors of MMP can inhibit angiogenesis. Recently, her lab also demonstrated that cancer patients have elevated levels of MMPs in their urine. Because vascular anomalies like hemangiomas also involve angiogenesis, Moses was approached by Jennifer Marler, MD, a fellow in the laboratory of Judah Folkman, MD, at Children's Hospital Boston and a clinical fellow in Child
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Contact: Elizabeth Andrews
elizabeth.andrews@childrens.harvard.edu
617-355-6420
Children's Hospital Boston
5-Jul-2005


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