School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Director of Pediatric Dermatology Lisa Arkin, MD, specializes in using laser to treat patients with vascular stains, often called port-wine birthmarks.
Dr. Arkin first became interested in working with lasers when an infant came in desperately ill from an infected infantile hemangioma, a rare complication in a common benign vascular birthmark. The girl was only 5 weeks old, and survived the infection, but was left with permanent facial scarring.
Dr. Arkin searched for a way to help this young patient, and ended up training with specialists at Harvard to learn a state-of-the-art laser treatment for patients with scarring. “With their help and mentorship, this beautiful little girl improved,” Dr. Arkin recalls, “and I fell in love with the idea of using light – in the form of lasers – to heal children.”
Now, Dr. Arkin is pushing the boundaries of laser treatment by combining it with new research that shows that vascular stains like birthmarks and port-wine stains are caused by the same genetic changes that cause cancer. The experimental treatment will use genetic testing to develop a personalized treatment plan for each patient. She is hopeful to eventually combine a targeted topical drug therapy with a personalized laser plan for each patient in a clinical trial.
“This has never been done before for vascular stains. I am very excited to be offering cutting-edge, precision-based care to patients with birthmarks and vascular stains in our area and beyond. These birthmarks are stigmatizing, and over time they get larger, and eventually can begin to inhibit basic functions. Thinking about stigma, and how a child thinks about themselves with a birthmark, is a major part of what we offer as dermatologists.”
Dr. Arkin’s research will enroll patients who meet specific criteria. This research is financially supported by philanthropy and patient-advocacy organizations, including the Sturge Weber Foundation, the Pediatric Dermatology Research Alliance, and the Dermatology Foundation.