We have experts who treat everything ranging from common childhood cancers like leukemia and brain tumors to rare blood disorders like aplastic anemia and myelodysplastic syndrome. We also offer more than 50 clinical trials that range from multi-center, cooperative group trials to studies only available here at American Family Children’s Hospital.
Programs and research
Getting kids back to being kids
Kids shouldn’t have to worry about being sick. UW Health Kids Cancer Care experts offer the most advanced treatments to get your child back to health — and back to being a kid. We also lead studies on new medicines and therapies so your child can access every possible treatment option.
How we help you
Being in the hospital can be very stressful for kids and their families. At American Family Children’s Hospital, certified child life specialists create positive experiences for hospitalized children and their families.
The UW Carbone Cancer Center and American Family Children’s Hospital offer CAR T-cell therapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia and other cancers. American Family Children's Hospital was one of the sites involved in testing this special immunotherapy. We also offer clinical trials to fight cancer using other types of immunotherapy, including NK cells, monoclonal antibodies and drugs that help the immune system work better.
American Family Children's Hospital in Madison, Wis., is one of the few locations in the country offering MIBG treatment for neuroblastoma, with a room dedicated to this specialized radiation treatment. We also offer many novel clinical trials for children whose cancer has recurred or has not responded well to initial treatment. Some of these therapies are not available anywhere else in the country.
You might wish to get a second opinion for a child diagnosed with cancer or a blood or bone marrow disorder. UW Health Kids Cancer Care experts offer second opinions on diagnoses and treatment plans. Call (608) 890-8070 to schedule a second opinion appointment.
The UW Health Kids Cancer Care experts develop new and exciting clinical trials based on ongoing research that results in the most effective, cutting-edge pediatric cancer treatments for our patients.
Conditions and treatments
Care for all cancers and blood disorders
If your child has cancer or a blood or bone marrow disorder, you want the very best care available. The UW Health Kids Cancer Care team provides the latest and best treatment options so your child can heal quickly and grow up healthy.
Our doctors are national leaders in treatment and research. Our research improves the care of children with cancer and blood and bone marrow disorders around the world.
The most common types of cancers that occur in children are brain tumors, leukemias and lymphomas. UW Health Kids experts work to treat these and virtually all other childhood cancers, blood disorders and tumors.
Please note: Not all services are provided at all locations.
Conditions we treat include:
Anemia occurs when the body has a lower number of red blood cells then is normal for your child’s age. This can happen if the bone marrow is not producing adequate numbers of red blood cells, or because the red blood cells are being destroyed after their release from the bone marrow.
Bone marrow not making enough red blood cells: The most common cause for this type of anemia is iron deficiency, though other causes are possible. Your doctor will run blood tests to determine the cause of the anemia and then recommend appropriate treatment.
Red blood cells are being destroyed: This type of anemia is known as hemolytic anemia, and is often caused by an antibody attaching to the red blood cells and causing them to be destroyed. However, many other causes are possible. Your doctor will run tests to determine what is causing the red blood cells to be destroyed and then recommend appropriate treatment.
Additional types of anemias and bone marrow disorders
Acquired aplastic anemia: A condition where the bone marrow stops producing adequate numbers of white blood cells (which fight infection), red blood cells (which carry oxygen to tissue) and platelets (which prevent bleeding). The exact cause is often unknown, though the problem can be triggered by certain drugs or infection.
Cyclic neutropenia: A rare blood condition characterized by abnormally low levels of certain white blood cells (neutrophils). Neutrophils are important to fight off infection.
Diamond-Blackfan Anemia (DBA) syndrome
Hemophilia (A and B)
Immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP): This condition can lead to excessive bruising and bleeding, because of low levels of platelets (a component of the blood that helps form clots).
Kostmann syndrome: A condition that occurs when there is an abnormally low number of neutrophils, a type of white cell that helps fight infection.
Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH): This rare blood disease causes red blood cells to break apart. The surface of the blood cell is missing a protein that protects it from the body's immune system.
Schwachman-Diamond syndrome: This inherited condition affects many parts of the body, especially bone marrow, pancreas and bones. It reduces the bone marrow's production of the types of white blood cells necessary to fight off infection. It can cause the pancreas to not produce enough enzymes to help gather nutrients from food, and your child might have problems with bone formation and growth.
Thrombocytopenia: A condition where a patient has a low blood platelet count. Blood platelets are necessary to stop bleeding by clotting blood.
Atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor (ATRT): This tumor begins in the brain or spinal cord. It is a fast-growing cancerous tumor, but very rare.
Diffuse infiltrative pontine glioma (DIPG)
Craniopharyngioma: A rare, non-cancerous tumor found near the pituitary gland.
Optic glioma: Optic nerve or pathway glioma is a slow-growing tumor in or around the nerve connecting the eye to the brain.
Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) – CML rarely occurs in children. It is a type of cancer that starts in an early version of myeloid cells, blood cells, platelets, and most types of white blood cells.
Juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML) – JMML is a rare form of childhood leukemia. It occurs when too many stem cells become white blood stem cells known as monocytes and myelocytes. Over time these blood cells crowd out red blood cells and platelets in the bone marrow.
This is one of the most common cancers we treat.
Ataxia-telangiectasia: Ataxia-telangiectasia is an inherited condition with progressive neurologic problems that cause difficulty walking and an increased risk of developing various cancers.
Endocrine tumors: Endocrine tumors affect the organs that make hormones.
Germ cell tumors: Germ cell tumors are rare and usually occur in the reproductive organs, (the testes for boys and ovaries for girls). These cells may travel to other parts of the body and cause tumors.
Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH): HLH is a rare disorder affecting the immune system. In this condition, many activated immune cells grow and damage parts of the body like the liver, spleen, bone marrow and brain.
Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS): These are conditions that can occur when the blood-forming cells in the bone marrow become abnormal. This leads to low numbers of one or more types of blood cells. MDS is considered a type of cancer.
Neurofibromatosis (types 1 and 2): Neurofibromatosis is an inherited disorder where tumors form on nerve tissue. These tumors can form anywhere in the nervous system. There are two types:
Type 1 usually appears in childhood and is often noticeable after birth.
Type 2 is less common and involves slow-growing tumors in both ears that can lead to hearing loss and balance issues. Type 2 tumors also can cause Schwannomatosis (see below)
Retinoblastoma: Retinoblastoma is a cancer that starts in the retina, the very back part of the eye. It is the most common type of eye cancer in children.
Schwannomatosis: Schwannomatosis usually affects people after age 20. Here tumors develop on the cranial, spinal and peripheral nerves.
Sturge-Weber syndrome: Sturge-Weber syndrome (SWS) is a neurological disorder in which a child is born with a distinctive port-wine stain on the forehead, scalp or around the eye. Problems in the capillaries near the surface of the skin cause the stain to form. It also can affect the nervous system.
Tuberous sclerosis: Tuberous sclerosis is a rare disease that causes tumors in the brain, skin, kidneys, eyes, heart or lungs. They are usually benign (non-cancerous). The first signs of tuberous sclerosis can occur at birth.
Vascular malformations: Vascular malformations often appear at birth and are a type of birthmark made of blood vessels that can cause functional issues.
Von Hippel-Lindau disease: Von Hippel-Lindau disease is a rare, inherited disease that causes tumors and cysts to grow in the brain, spinal cord, kidneys, pancreas, adrenal glands and reproductive organs. The tumors are usually non-cancerous.
Treating children with relapsed or resistant cancers is serious business. If your child has one chance, you’ll want to put your trust in a team whose reputation for innovative pediatric cancer research is unquestioned.
As part of the UW Carbone Cancer Center — Wisconsin’s only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center — our team has played a pivotal role in advancing more effective childhood cancer treatments from the laboratory to the bedside for decades.
Because UW Health frequently offers clinical trials that might not be available elsewhere in the region, your child might be one of the first to benefit from these new approaches. Moreover, those who participate in clinical trials today pay dividends for the cancer patients of tomorrow.
Available cancer treatments
If your child is diagnosed with cancer or a blood or bone marrow disorder, our team will match the best treatment option to their condition.
During a transfusion, your child receives donor blood, which replaces the blood they have lost.
During a bone marrow transplant (also called stem cell transplantation), healthy donor stem cells are transplanted into your child’s body. A bone marrow transplant helps to rebuild your child’s blood supply and immune system.
This treatment removes excess iron from your child’s blood. We might recommend Chelation therapy if your child gets regular blood transfusions.
Chemotherapy is a type of medication treatment used to kill cancer cells.
This therapy stops your child’s immune response so their bone marrow can make blood again.
This is a treatment that uses your child’s immune system to fight cancer. CAR T-cell therapy is one type of immunotherapy offered at UW Health.
UW Health is one of the few centers in the U.S. to offer this highly targeted treatment for children with retinoblastoma. It provides 10 times as much medication to the tumor as systemic chemotherapy, using a fraction of the dose.
Your child’s care team may administer medications like antibiotics, pain-relievers and steroids throughout your child’s treatment.
This treatment uses radiation to kill cancer cells. MIBG is one type of radiation therapy offered at UW Health.
Our expert doctors might recommend surgery to remove tumors. Whenever possible, we use minimally invasive surgery. Minimally invasive surgery uses tiny incisions and tools, which minimizes pain and speeds recovery time.
The region’s leading cancer center
UW Health Kids Cancer Care experts are part of the UW Carbone Cancer Center — a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. This designation means that the doctors taking care of your child are experts in cancer treatment, research and education.
Meet our team
Our team understands the unique needs of children with cancer or blood and bone marrow disorders. We also support the families of children in our care.
Your child’s team includes:
Hematologists (blood disease doctors)
Oncologists (cancer doctors)
Pain management specialists
Radiologists and radiation technologists
Specialists in all other pediatric areas that our patients might need for their care
Learn more about our program and our patients
When your child needs hospitalization, they will be admitted to American Family Children's Hospital in Madison, Wis.
Our Child Life specialists help your child and family cope with any fears and anxieties. We offer:
Positive Image Center
Spiritual care services
Tyler's Place (sibling child care)
At age 9, Nathan Schraven of Menasha, Wis., could already call himself a cancer survivor. An avid sports fan, Nathan was treated at American Family Children’s Hospital and achieved “rapid remission.”