Liver cancer is the fastest growing cause of cancer deaths in Australia – but sufferers are set to benefit from a new approach being led by Westmead Hospital liver specialist Professor Jacob George.
Professor George has been awarded the state’s first Accelerated Translational Research Grant from the Cancer Institute NSW.
The $4 million grant is part of the Accelerated Translational Research in Primary Liver Cancer program, and will bring together researchers, clinicians and experts across the state to improve liver cancer outcomes.
With fewer than two in five people diagnosed surviving five years, a comprehensive approach to tackling the disease is vital.
“Around two thirds of liver cancer cases in Australia are attributable to viral hepatitis. We know that by curing hepatitis C and treating hepatitis B, we can dramatically reduce the risk of liver cancer developing,” Professor George said.
“Prevention is key.”
While there has been significant work to improve liver cancer outcomes in NSW, Professor George says this grant is the catalyst to bring together three key areas:
- Optimising prevention strategies for primary liver cancer
- Establishing a NSW liver cancer board with multidisciplinary representation to implement best practice clinical care
- Developing a palliative care framework for primary liver cancer
“If we can advance the whole state on all of these aspects, it will be really improving cancer care for the individual patients,” he said.
Professor George is the current project lead, and said he hopes the funding will change the face of liver cancer in NSW and beyond.
“Aboriginal and culturally linguistically diverse people have a higher chance of being diagnosed with liver cancer and are more likely to die from the disease – we want to change that,” Professor George said.
Professor George said the program will tackle liver cancer from before it starts through to end-of-life support, with a key focus on supporting people between those stages with the best treatments and care.
“It’s an exceptionally unique opportunity to try and change the face of liver cancer in NSW and hopefully in Australia.
“This is a systems-based approach, a big picture approach to say ‘Let’s look at the whole gamut of what we need to do’.”
Professor George has recently been named as the third recipient of an illustrious award from Cancer Council NSW for his work studying liver disease and liver cancer.