Pediatric Cancer Care


Cancer Care

A leader in the care of pediatric liver cancer

Liver Tumors

Specialized Care for Rare Cancers

Although liver tumors in children are rare (accounting for only one to two percent of childhood cancers), they can be very complex and require a team approach to achieve the best results. Families of children with liver tumors who come to the Pediatric Liver Cancer Program at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Komansky Children's Hospital meet with all of their healthcare team members right from the beginning. Patients and their families come to us from all over the world for our expertise and comprehensive care.

Types of pediatric liver tumors

Our team has exceptional experience treating children with all types of liver cancer, including:

  • Hepatoblastoma
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Sarcomas
  • Other large tumors affecting the liver

Signs & symptoms 

Children with liver tumors may have symptoms, such as:

  • A lump in the abdomen that may be painful
  • Swelling in the belly
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite

Causes of liver tumors in children

Child holding a model of the LiverWhile what has caused liver cancer in a child is not always known, certain conditions increase risk. Hepatoblastoma risk factors include:

  • Aicardi syndrome
  • Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome
  • Hemihyperplasia, where one side of the body is larger than the other
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis, where hundreds of polyps develop in the colon
  • Glycogen storage disease
  • Very low weight at birth
  • Simpson-Golabi-Behmel syndrome
  • Certain genetic changes, such as trisomy 18

These conditions raise the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma:

  • Alagille syndrome (defects in the tubes that carry bile out of the liver)
  • Glycogen storage disease
  • Hepatitis B virus infection passed from mother to child at birth
  • Progressive familial intrahepatic disease (a buildup of bile in the liver)
  • Tyrosinemia (high levels of a protein building block called tyrosine)

How liver tumors are diagnosed

We use a variety of tests to diagnose liver tumors in children, including:

  • Physical examination
  • Imaging exams of the abdomen such as MRI, CT, or ultrasound
  • Blood tests and liver function tests
  • Tissue biopsy

Our approach to care

The pediatric liver tumor team includes oncologists, hepatologists, pediatric surgeons, liver transplant surgeons, interventional radiologists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. Our specialists tailor a customized plan of care to meet your child's needs. Team members regularly collaborate throughout your child's treatment to deliver care effectively and compassionately. Your child and your family also have access to the services of social workers, child life specialists, dietitians, and integrative medicine specialists to provide comprehensive supportive care and ease your journey throughout this experience.

Pediatric liver tumor treatment

Your child's liver tumor treatment may include:

Surgery. Pediatric liver surgeons at NewYork-Presbyterian treat more children with liver tumors in a year than many surgeons see in a career. We are known for our expertise in the surgical removal of large liver tumors and operating on tumors that other centers would consider inoperable. If your child's care includes a liver transplant, NewYork-Presbyterian's Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation is one of the world's leading programs for this operation and has exceptional experience with liver transplantation in children, including the use of liver tissue from a living donor.

Chemotherapy. Our pediatric oncologists work closely with other members of your child's healthcare team to determine whether chemotherapy is needed, if it is best given before or after surgery, or if surgery is needed.

Interventional radiology. We offer chemoembolization, in which a strong medicine is injected locally into a blood vessel in the tumor, and microwave ablation, in which electromagnetic waves introduce heat into the tumor. Our doctors have even treated newborns as young as one to two weeks old with complex vascular tumors. We are also one of a few centers to offer selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT) to children — a treatment that delivers millions of tiny radioactive beads directly to liver tumors to kill cancer cells.

Why choose us

In addition to our expertise in providing standard treatments for pediatric liver cancer, we have a robust clinical and translational research program to advance the care of children now and in the future. We offer clinical trials assessing new therapies for challenging pediatric liver tumors to improve survival and decreasing the side effects of treatment. Your child may have the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial. Our center is one of the few performing research on hepatoblastoma genetics (precision medicine targeting each patient's tumor) and on developing laboratory models of hepatoblastoma to learn more about the disease. Call for an appointment to see how we can help your child.

Contact us

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Columbia Pediatric Liver Cancer Program