The Liver Tumor Program’s principle areas of research span from basic science to clinical research, with particular emphasis on tumor biology and the identification of new targets for therapies. Research investigators in the Texas Children’s Cancer Center have ongoing studies focused on understanding the pathogenesis, biology, and malignant determinants of liver tumors and developing novel therapies. These studies range from molecular genetic studies to novel clinical trials for treatment of recurrent or refractory disease. Currently, we are working with the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) on an upfront trial for hepatoblastoma as well as new drug trials.
Liver Tumor Research Laboratories
Andras Heczey, MD Dr. Heczey’s research is focused on redirecting the immune system to attack and kill cancer cells by using genetically engineered T cells and Natural Killer T cells. He has developed bispecific T cell engagers and chimeric antigen receptors, which when expressed in T cells, specifically target hepatoblastoma and hepatocellular carcinoma. His goal is to cure all patients with liver cancers by translating these methods from the laboratory setting to the patient care clinic.
Milton Finegold, MD
Dr. Finegold is the Pathologist reviewer for the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), where he first began his endeavors in 1986 at the Pediatric Oncology Group (POG). He has helped to define subsets of hepatoblastomas that require alternative therapies to current protocols. He also provided correlative histopathologic data for the molecular genetic analyses that were performed in the research laboratories of Drs. Lopez-Terrada and Will Parsons. The goal of Dr. Finegold’s research is to improve our understanding of the pathogenesis of hepatoblastoma — the most common form of liver cancer in children. He aims to develop prognostic markers and to define resistance to ordinarily successful chemotherapy. Dr. Finegold collaborates with clinicians and scientists from around the world for similar purposes on all forms of liver neoplasia in children.
Dolores Lopez-Terrada, MD PhD
Dr. Lopez-Terrada’s laboratory is dedicated to the molecular characterization of hepatoblastoma and other pediatric liver tumors. The laboratories ongoing research projects include: genetic profiling of hepatoblastoma and other pediatric hepatocellular neoplasms using methods such as cancer genomics, to identify critical signaling pathways, mutations, copy number and epigenetic changes that are associated with disease prognosis, or that otherwise may be used as therapeutic targets. Her laboratory is also dedicated to clinical translation and to develop new genetic and molecular clinical tests that could be used to refine the diagnosis, clinical stratification and disease monitoring of pediatric liver cancer patients.
Donald “Will” Parsons, MD, PhD
Dr. Parson’s research is focused on the genomic characterization of pediatric liver tumors, including hepatoblastoma and hepatocellular carcinoma, using DNA and RNA-based sequencing methods. His results will guide physicians to risk adapted treatments and may find potential targets for treatments.
Sanjeev A. Vasudevan, MD
Dr. Vasudevan’s research laboratory focuses on validation of potential therapeutic targets found in hepatoblastoma in hopes of finding new, effective therapies for disease refractory and metastatic patients. His laboratory is currently studying methods of activating the p53 tumor suppressor pathway in hepatoblastoma and the role of AFP in tumor recurrence and metastasis. Dr. Vasudevan also has an active collaboration with Dr. Karl-Dimiter Bissig, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Cell and Gene Therapy at Baylor College of Medicine. Drs. Vasudevan and Bissig are studying the transcriptome of hepatoblastoma and developing patient-derived mouse xenografts for preclinical study. Dr. Vasudevan’s laboratory hopes to validate multiple targets in order to find novel and less toxic therapeutic agents to improve outcomes for children with liver cancer.
Dimi Bissig, MD
The Bissig lab is interested in developing new experimental tools and biomarkers for pediatric liver cancer. Ongoing research projects include patient-specific therapy inpatient-derived xenograft models and isogenic cell lines, as well as screening for biomarkers utilizing proximal fluid proteomics. The Bissig lab is interdisciplinary and has a veterinarian, a clinical fellow, research associates and actively collaborates with surgeons, oncologists, pathologists, protein biochemists, and geneticists. We are dedicated to the translation of cutting edge science into personalized medicine.
Dr. Himes is a transplant hepatologist whose expertise is in benign and malignant liver tumors in children. His clinical and research activities converge on defining, measuring and improving value-delivery in healthcare. He leads efforts in the Section of Gastroenterology of the Department of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and within the Visceral Transplant Program to make Texas Children’s Hospital a national leader in outcomes transparency and improvement.
The Department of Radiology at Texas Children’s Hospital is dedicated to providing safe, radiation-free imaging to children with all kinds of liver diseases, focal or diffuse. The modalities that are available include: radiography, ultrasound, computer tomography (CT scan) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Dr. Masand and his team uses special protocols incorporating dynamic liver imaging to allow characterization of liver masses, with the use of hepatocyte-specific contrast agents. Excellent vascular definition can be obtain with blood pool contrast agent as required for surgical planning. Dr. Masand’s team also provides intra-operative ultrasound guidance to our pediatric surgeons. A dedicated team of anesthesiologists are available to provide sedation for young patients and patients who are claustrophobic, which helps us to obtain high definition images of the liver. Dr. Masand’s research interests revolve around developing MR imaging biomarkers in children with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), MR Elastography and perfusion imaging in liver tumors.
Texas Children’s Hospital is one of only a few institutions in the country that offers advanced treatment options for the management of liver tumors in children by interventional radiology. These advanced treatment methods include: transarterial chemoembolisation (TACE), radiofrequency ablation (RFA), and selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT). Dr. Kukreja is excited about the potential of liver tumor management by interventional radiology (IR). Interventional radiology has started to play an increasingly important role in the management of liver tumors. He has been involved in researching advanced treatment methods for liver tumors in children. Pediatric liver tumors can be managed by minimally invasive methods of administering chemotherapy directly to the tumor, via arteries supplying the tumor also known as transarterial chemotherapy (TACE). Radiation can also be administered to the tumor via procedure called SIRT (selective internal radiation therapy). Dr. Kukreja’s research interests include the management of hepatocellular carcinoma, hepatoblastoma, and researching the role of transarterial and percutaneous therapies in pediatric liver tumors.