Focus to Find a Cure for Tumors

Doctor wants city to be hub for hemangioma research

By David Quick
The Post and Courier
Tuesday, June 15, 2010

From a medical standpoint, it’s a common benign tumor, but the damage to the patient is emotional and can last a lifetime.

Dr. Marcelo Hochman

Hemangiomas, or vascular anomalies (abnormal lumps made up of blood vessels), appear in the first few days and weeks after birth and are medically benign. Treatments are available and can prevent children from having to grow up with the mental anguish of a facial abnormality.

Hemangiomas, aka “vascular anomalies,” can develop in the days and months after birth. One in 10 babies has a vascular anomaly and 80 percent of the tumors occur on the face.

“One-third of them should get treatment,” says Dr. Marcelo Hochman, a plastic surgeon at The Facial Surgery Center.

Hochman first became interested in hemangiomas when one of his sons had one on his chest. Since then, he has helped treat hundreds of kids with the tumors. He is spending a week this month in Manila, Philippines, doing free surgeries for the Hemangioma International Treatment Center, as well as training other physicians how to do the surgeries.

Closer to home, Hochman is working to make Charleston the national hub for treatment of hemangiomas and research toward finding a cure so that surgery and the potential scarring become unnecessary.

Hochman thinks that a cure likely will be discovered in 10 to 15 years and will likely come in the form of a drug given to children who develop a hemangioma or have been tested at birth and show a propensity to develop one.

Earlier this month, Hochman spearheaded an effort that brought researchers from Harvard, Johns Hopkins and the Medical University of South Carolina as well as about 70 primary care physicians from across the region and a biomedical venture capital firm to Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital for a conference on the subject.

“What we are trying to do is to have everyone sit down, and if we agree that our goal is finding a cure, which it is, then we need to work together,” says Hochman.

He adds that Charleston is the ideal location for that to happen because it is a destination, it has the clinical and research facilities and a hospitality industry that is the envy of most cities.

Hochman says the group of physicians and researchers, which adopted the name the “Vascular Anomaly Research Alliance,” already is planning a return visit in February.

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