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Hepatoblastoma is an extremely rare type of cancer with cells similar to fetal liver cells. It forms in children, usually younger than 4 years old. Typically, around two out of three children who have these tumors are successfully treated with surgery and chemotherapy. Hepatoblastoma tumor cells are harder to treat if they have spread outside the liver.  

Why Choose Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center?

Sylvester is an NCI-designated cancer center. The National Cancer Institute has recognized Sylvester for its outstanding work conducting research in its laboratories, treating patients in its clinics and hospitals, and reaching out to medically underserved communities with innovative prevention strategies.

Advanced radiation oncology tools. Sylvester was the first medical center in Florida, and the fourth in the country to offer resonance magnetic-guided radiation therapy. Our team is a leader in that domain. Our RapidArc® radiotherapy system delivers intensity-modulated external radiation therapy (IMRT). These tools lead to more efficient and effective treatments, shorter treatment times, pinpoint accuracy in tumor targeting and less damage to surrounding healthy tissue. Finally, our radiation oncology department also offers proton beam therapy in our state-of-the-art Dwoskin Proton Therapy Center.

More cancer clinical trials than any other South Florida hospital. If appropriate for your cancer and stage, our clinical trials provide you with the very newest ways to treat and potentially cure your cancer.

One of only six designated Cancer Centers of Excellence in Florida. We treat cancer, and only cancer, giving you the best potential outcomes. The likelihood of surviving cancer at least five years following treatment is 17 percent higher when treated at a Dedicated Cancer Center than at other hospitals. 

Multidisciplinary care teams with nationally recognized expertise. Collaboration saves lives. Your care team is made up of experts in your exact type of cancer, and every single aspect of it.

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Hepatoblastoma has a variety of treatments that can be used individually or in combination with other cancer treatments to produce the best outcome for your specific kind of cancer. That's why careful diagnosis and staging are so important. Your specialist will explain your treatment choices, how successful they expect them to be, and the risks and side effects with each option.     

  • Surgery 

    Surgery is performed for primary tumors that start in the liver and secondary tumors (called metastatic) that have traveled to the liver from a different organ such as the colon, lung, or breast.

    • Partial hepatectomy: This surgery is to remove part of your liver. The remaining liver tissue functions as if it were whole and will regrow in most cases to the size of the original liver.

    • Staged partial hepatectomy:  For large or multiple tumors, this surgery can be performed in two stages. A multidisciplinary team that includes a surgeon and an interventional radiologist works together. 

    • Liver transplantation: For certain patients with primary liver cancer that originated in the liver (and is confined to the liver), your surgeon may recommend removing the whole liver and replacing it with a healthy donor liver.    
  • Ablation 

    When surgery may be too risky, ablation uses different techniques to destroy abnormal liver tissue, including: 

    • Radiofrequency ablation: High-energy radio waves heat the tumor, killing cancer cells.

    • Ethanol (alcohol) ablation: This procedure is also known as percutaneous ethanol injection (PEI). Concentrated alcohol is injected into the tumor to kill cancer cells.

    • Microwave ablation: Microwaves are applied directly to the tumor, producing heat that damages/kills cancer cells, or makes them more responsive to radiation or medical therapy.

    • Cryoablation: Freezes and destroys cancer cells under ultrasound guidance.
  • Embolization 

    Embolization is an option for some patients whose larger tumors cannot be removed by surgery or ablation. Embolization tries to block or reduce the blood flow to cancer cells in the liver.

    • Chemoembolization: Delivers concentrated chemotherapeutic drug(s) to the tumor along with a blood vessel blocking agent, starving the tumor of its blood supply.

    • Radioembolization: Similar to chemoembolization but with radiation instead of drugs.

    • Portal vein embolization: Often used for borderline liver resection candidates. The blood supply is blocked on one side of the tumor, allowing the other side to grow to a fully functional size for surgery.

  • Radiation Therapy 

    Advanced technology tools working for you include RapidArc®, an external beam (delivered from a machine outside the body) technology delivering intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). IMRT shortens treatment times to one-half to one-eighth that of conventional radiation therapy, resulting in better tumor targeting and less damage to healthy tissue.

  • Chemotherapy (Systemic Medical Therapy)

    Chemotherapy can be administered intravenously (infusion needle) or by a pill and is usually a combination of cancer-fighting drugs.  Chemotherapy is also sometimes given to surgical patients, after the procedure to eliminate remaining cancer cells and reduce the chances of recurrence.

    • If you require infusion chemotherapy, you can receive it at the Comprehensive Treatment Unit (CTU) at Sylvester's main location in Miami. It's a 12,000-square-foot unit that includes 33 recliners and 11 private rooms. Or, you can have your infusion treatments at the Kendall, Plantation, Hollywood, Coral Springs, or Deerfield Beach locations.

  • Targeted Therapy 

    These treatments are designed to attack the molecular changes that make cancer cells grow and spread. Some of these medicines are given along with other chemotherapy medicines, while others are used individually. The purpose is to stop cancer from growing. It can also be used to help chemotherapy get inside the tumor and be more effective.


Determining treatment options and the best chances of recovery depend on the stage of cancer — this means whether the cancer is confined to the liver or has spread. Choices are also based on cancer recurrence/returning, and your general health. Besides a careful and thorough medical history and physical examination, procedures for diagnosing liver cancer may include the following:

  • Serum Tumor Marker Test

    This blood test looks for and measures the amount of certain substances released into the blood, such as alpha-fetoprotein (AFP). Elevated levels of this protein may be a sign of liver cancer or noncancerous conditions. In some cases, the AFP level is normal even though there is liver cancer.

  • Liver Function Tests 

    Also called liver enzyme tests, this group of blood tests detects inflammation and damage to the liver. They can also evaluate how well the liver is working.

  • CT (CAT) Scan of the Abdomen

    This scan uses a colorful dye that’s injected into a vein or swallowed. Detailed pictures from several angles are taken inside the abdomen. The dye makes the organs or tissues show up more clearly.

  • PET (Positron Emission Tomography) Scan

    This procedure identifies tumor cells that are malignant using a small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) injected into a vein. These tumor cells tend to appear brighter in an image because they are more active and take up more glucose than healthy cells.

  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

    An MRI uses a combination of a magnet and radio waves, along with a computer to create a series of in-depth pictures of the liver. Colored dye is injected into a vein to produce detailed images of blood vessels in and around the liver.

  • Ultrasound Exam

    This procedure relies on high-energy sound waves, also called ultrasound, that are bounced off internal organs and tissues to form an image of body tissues.

  • Biopsy

    Often a sample of suspicious cells is surgically removed for viewing under a microscope. Fine-needle aspiration, core needle, or laparoscopy (a minimally invasive procedure) help remove the tissue.

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