Stanford/Packard Team Seeks Infants With Hemangiomas To Test Drug Treatment

-- Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital are seeking infants with a type of birthmark made up of blood vessels known as infantile hemangiomas (also called strawberry marks) for a study of a drug that may shrink the non-cancerous tumors. The study is investigating whether propranolol, a drug that is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in treating children with heart problems and high blood pressure, can safely and effectively treat infants’ hemangiomas.

Who: The Stanford/Packard team is enrolling 20 infants with hemangiomas at least three-quarters of an inch in diameter, anywhere on their body except for the diaper area. Subjects must be 35 to 150 days (5 months) old to participate.

Why: In the first three months of life, about 10 percent of infants will develop a hemangioma. Most hemangiomas disappear on their own by age 9, but some cause lasting deformities. Large hemangiomas may result in skin breakdown (ulcerate) and become infected. Established treatments such as steroid drugs and surgery have undesirable side effects and are not always effective.

In 2008, reports from a group of French physicians discovered that propranolol might be effective in shrinking hemangiomas. The doctors were treating a girl with a large, disfiguring facial hemangioma. After receiving high doses of steroids, the girl developed heart failure, which then necessitated treatment with propranolol. Her hemangioma quickly began to shrink, prompting an investigation into propranolol’s safety and efficacy for treating infantile hemangiomas.

“Our goal is to find a safe, easy way to treat these tumors early in a child’s life so that we can prevent deformity,” said  Latanya Benjamin, MD, a pediatric dermatologist at Packard Children’s Hospital and a clinical assistant professor of dermatology and of pediatrics at Stanford. She is leading the Stanford arm of the study, which has over 60 sites in Europe and the United States.

Benjamin noted that propranolol is now being used “off-label” to treat infantile hemangiomas; however the safety data, proper dosing and long-term side effects are currently not known. “This study is important as it will help to provide us with this information gathered from infants who are carefully monitored in the study,” she said.

When and where: The infants will receive study medication for six months and be monitored for a total of two years to see what ultimately happens after drug treatment ends. The participants will have 15 checkups at Packard Children’s Hospital during the study, and receive study treatment at no charge. Some infants may be randomized to receive a placebo (medication without active study drug); there is a one out of nine chance of receiving placebo.

How: Those who want more information about the trial may contact Emily Gorell at (650) 721-7166 or

The research is funded by Pierre Fabre Dermatologie, a French company that makes propranolol and is providing the drug for the study. The pharmaceutical manufacturer is paying for the time and effort of the research team. The Stanford/Packard researchers have no financial stake or involvement in the company’s operations.


About Stanford Children’s Health and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford

Stanford Children’s Health, with Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at its core, is the Bay Area’s largest health care enterprise exclusively dedicated to children and expectant mothers. As the top-ranked children’s hospital in Northern California, and one of just 11 nationwide to be named on the 2016-17 U.S. News & World Report Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll, Packard Children’s Hospital is a leader in world-class, nurturing care and extraordinary outcomes in every pediatric and obstetric specialty. Stanford Children’s Health offers care ranging from the routine to rare, regardless of a family’s ability to pay. Together with Stanford Medicine physicians, nurses, and staff, Stanford Children’s Health can be accessed through partnerships, collaborations, outreach, specialty clinics and primary care practices at more than 60 locations across Northern California and 100 locations in the U.S. western region. As a non-profit, Stanford Children’s Health is committed to supporting the community – from caring for uninsured or underinsured kids, homeless teens and pregnant moms, to training the next generation of doctors and medical professionals. Celebrating the 25th anniversary of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in 2016, Stanford Children’s Health looks forward to the fall 2017 debut of its expanded pediatric and obstetric hospital campus. Discover more at and on the Healthier, Happy Lives blog. Join Stanford Children’s Health on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.


About Stanford University School of Medicine

The Stanford University School of Medicine consistently ranks among the nation’s top medical schools, integrating research, medical education, patient care and community service. For more news about the school, please visit The medical school is part of Stanford Medicine, which includes Stanford Health Care and Stanford Children’s Health. For information about all three, please visit