Researchers Test New Drug for Common Infant Skin Condition
SLU researchers are participating in an international clinical trial of a drug to treat infantile hemangiomas, also known as strawberry marks.
A hemangioma is a non-cancerous tumor made of tiny blood vessels, that affects approximately one in 10 babies within the first three months of life. While many hemangiomas will heal on their own, a significant number of babies are at risk for complications, including disfigurement and ulceration.
Researchers are studying the safety and effectiveness of propranolol, a 40-year-old medication most often used to treat high blood pressure, in shrinking hemangiomas. The drug was serendipitously discovered while treating a child who had a severe hemifacial hemangioma that was not responsive to high-dose corticosteroids. When the child was given propranolol to treat steroid-induced cardiomyopathy, the hemangioma also shrank.
"For more than half of affected infants, hemangiomas eventually fade away. In these cases, there is no need to interfere," said Elaine Siegfried, M.D., chief of pediatric dermatology at the School of Medicine and Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center, and principal investigator of the study at SLU.
"However, more than one third of affected infants have a hemangioma that grows very fast, is located in a cosmetically sensitive area, interferes with the child's vision or breathing or is at risk of ulcerating," she said. "Treatment may be necessary to prevent or minimize serious complications for these infants."
Currently, there is no FDA-approved treatment for the condition, though options include corticosteroids or surgery.
"The initial report of propranolol treatment for hemangioma, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was promising. More information is needed about the safety and effectiveness of the drug, but if this study is successful, it will pave the way for approval of a less invasive treatment with few side effects," Siegfried said.