Hep B Blog

Tag Archives: HCC

Rallying Call

livercancerconnect.org
livercancerconnect.org

 

Welcome to the newly launched blog from Liver Cancer Connect, the Hepatitis B Foundation’s dedicated program on liver cancer. The blog will focus on issues that affect families facing liver cancer.

On the recent World Cancer Day 2014, we ushered in the new year with both sobering news and some optimism.

First the sobering news. The American Cancer Society recently reported1 that the number of new cases of liver cancer and the number of deaths due to this disease continue to increase.

The rate of liver/bile duct cancer has risen by 3% to 4% per year and mortality by about 2% over the past 2 decades. In sharp contrast, the death rate for all cancers combined has been steadily declining over the same period and the number of new cases has decreased for most cancers.

Liver cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the world, and the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths. In fact, every 30 seconds, one person in the world dies of liver cancer.

Yet liver cancer is largely preventable!

Eliminating the main risk factors for liver cancer — chronic hepatitis B and C infections and fatty liver disease — can stop the development of liver cancer.

Chronic hepatitis B and C infections, which cause about 85% of liver cancers worldwide, are preventable and treatable. A safe vaccine against hepatitis B (the world’s first anti-cancer vaccine) has been available since 1986. And while a cure is not yet available, hepatitis B infections can be kept under control with effective treatments. There is no vaccine yet for hepatitis C, but it can be cured. And fatty liver disease can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight and diet.

Equally important in preventing liver cancer are screening and surveillance, which help to find the cancer early. Screening is the first test that a person undergoes to detect either an increased risk for liver cancer or the actual presence of the cancer. Surveillance refers to the regular monitoring for liver cancer on a ~6-month basis.

Early detection increases the number of treatment options available and the chances of successful treatment. A targeted oral therapy called Nexavar (sorafenib) is currently approved for liver cancer in more than 70 countries, and researchers are looking for new ways to fight liver cancer with fewer side effects. Many of these potential new treatments are being studied in clinical trials.

So there is room for optimism. With greater public awareness of the risk factors and how to prevent them, and new therapies being developed, it is possible to reverse the bleak statistics for liver cancer.

With the rallying call, “Liver cancer is preventable!” Liver Cancer Connect is putting the spotlight on the prevention of liver cancer.

Our patient-focused website (www.livercancerconnect.org) explains the main risk factors for liver cancer and the importance of screening, surveillance, and early intervention. Over the next few months we will be expanding the resources on the website and bringing you more news and information on liver cancer. We encourage you to explore the website and send us your comments.

1. Siegel R, Ma J, Zou Z, Jemal A. Cancer Statistics, 2014. CA Cancer J Clin 2014 (epub ahead of print).

Hepatitis B Mutation Seen in Only Men, Increased Risk of Liver Cancer

High Level of Sexual Harassment in Men Linked to Purging: Study

Are you depressed? (Photo : Reuters)

Posted in Science World Report, October 17, 2013

A recent study looks at a form of hepatitis B that is only found in men and may explain higher rates for certain types of cancer.

According to a team of researchers from Seoul National University in Korea, they identified a mutation from the hepatitis B virus that seems to appear only in men and may explain why HBV-infected males are roughly five times more likely than HBV-infected women to develop certain types of liver cancer. Continue reading "Hepatitis B Mutation Seen in Only Men, Increased Risk of Liver Cancer"

Coffee Consumption Reduces Risk of Liver Cancer

“Our research confirms past claims that coffee is good for your health, and particularly the liver,” said Carlo La Vecchia, MD. (Credit: © volff / Fotolia)

Coffee consumption reduces risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer, by about 40 percent, according to an up-to-date meta-analysis published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the official clinical practice journal of the American Gastroenterological Association. Further, some data indicate that three cups of coffee per day reduce liver cancer risk by more than 50 percent.

Read more. 

Posted in Science Daily, October 22, 2013

Inexpensive Test Could Reveal Liver Cancer Risk

Could an inexpensive test, used in conjunction with current, traditional HCC testing help reveal one’s liver cancer risk? Research for the V-chip is described in an article published in this week’s  Health Canal

Scientists from the Houston Methodist Research Institute and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center will receive about $2.1 million from the National Cancer Institute to learn whether a small, low-cost device can help assess a person’s risk of developing a common form of liver cancer.

The four-year project is based on technology previously developed by Houston Methodist nanomedicine faculty member Lidong Qin, Ph.D., who is the new project’s principal investigator. Qin’s “V-Chip,” or volumetric bar-chart chip, will be used to detect biomarkers for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common cause of liver cancer. The device only requires a drop of blood from a finger prick.


The V-Chip allows the testing of up to 50 different molecules in a blood or urine sample.

“Most of the burden of HCC is borne by people who have low income, with the highest incidence rates reported in regions of the world where infection with hepatitis B virus is endemic,” Qin said. “Developing an accurate and low-cost technology that assesses the risk of cancer could make a big difference to people who ordinarily can’t afford expensive tests.”

M.D. Anderson Department of Epidemiology Chair Xifeng Wu is the project’s co-principal investigator.

Qin and Wu will see whether the V-Chip accurately detects HCC biomarkers. The researchers will also determine which combination of these biomarkers proves most predictive of disease.

Among the biomarkers the researchers will look at are antigens of hepatitis viruses B and C, aflatoxin (a fungal toxin that at high doses is associated with cancer risk), and metabolic indicators of alcohol consumption, obesity, diabetes, and iron overdose.

Tests of the V-chip will not replace traditional testing methods, but rather be carried out in tandem so that patients’ care cannot be adversely affected.

Hepatocellular carcinoma is believed to be the third-highest cause of cancer death worldwide and the ninth leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. It is most commonly caused by a past infection of hepatitis viruses B or C (HBV or HCV) and cirrhosis of the liver caused by alcohol abuse or other toxic damage.

Please visit Health News, Health Canal for more information 

Launch of New Patient-Focused Website at LiverCancerConnect.org

A dedicated program of the Hepatitis B Foundation for patients and families 

The statistics are sobering. Liver cancer is the seventh most common cancer in the world, but the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Worldwide, more than 700,000 people are diagnosed with primary liver cancer each year, accounting for more than 600,000 deaths annually. Equally disturbing is the fact that while the incidence rates of most cancers have declined in recent years, the incidence rate for liver cancer is increasing.

But there is encouraging progress in the fight against liver cancer. Scientific research into new treatments is yielding promising results. And perhaps more significantly, the major causes of liver cancer— such as chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C infections, and cirrhosis — are largely preventable. A safe and effective vaccine against hepatitis B has been available since 1986. In fact, this vaccine was named the world’s first “anti-cancer” vaccine, because it prevents chronic hepatitis B infection, the world’s leading cause of liver cancer. While no vaccine for hepatitis C currently exists, new drugs can eliminate the virus, thereby halting the progression to liver cancer. And cirrhosis can be avoided by preventing chronic hepatitis B and C infections, limiting alcohol intake, and preventing fatty liver disease associated with obesity.

Knowing that these risk factors are preventable makes it all the more important to identify people at risk for liver cancer, educate them about prevention and treatment options, and direct them to appropriate medical care.

To provide accurate, easy-to-understand information to people diagnosed with liver cancer, the Hepatitis B Foundation has created the first patient-focused website, www.LiverCancerConnect.org. The website aims to help people better understand how liver cancer is diagnosed and how it can be treated or prevented. In addition, wwwLiverCancerConnect.org includes a Drug Watch of potential new liver cancer therapies, an expanding directory of liver cancer specialists, and a clinical trials listing.

The Hepatitis B Foundation is also organizing a series of webinars in 2013 to educate the public about the link between liver cancer and its main risk factors, namely hepatitis B and C infections and cirrhosis caused by fatty liver disease. The webinars, presented by leading international experts in liver diseases, will explain what primary liver cancer is, the importance of liver cancer screening and surveillance, and the treatment options and clinical trials that are currently available. Additional information will be announced on both the Liver Cancer Connect website and HBF’s blog when it is available.

The Foundation invites you to use www.LiverCancerConnect.org to learn about liver cancer and its treatment options, and to locate liver cancer specialists and clinical trials. We welcome your feedback and suggestions at connect@livercancerconnect.org so that we may continue to build on this valuable resource for the global liver cancer community.

Liver Cancer Connect is available on Facebook and Twitter. Join LCC on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/LiverCancerConnect and follow LCC on twitter with the handle @LiverCancerConn.

 

 

 

HBV Genotype C Carries Greater Risk for HCC Than Other Genotypes

Below is a publication from “Healio Hepatology, January 23, 2013 –HBV Genotype C Carries Greater Risk for HCC Than Other Genotypes“, showing the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma among the different hepatitis B genotypes based on a meta-analysis of 43 studies. There are 8 identified HBV genotypes ranging from genotypes A through H. These different genotypes are concentrated in distinct geographic areas of the globe, and may influence the course of disease, as noted below with the greater risk of liver cancer for those with genotype C. 

Patients with hepatitis B genotype C are more likely to develop hepatocellular carcinoma than patients with other HBV genotypes, according to recent results.

Researchers performed a meta-analysis of 43 studies (34 cross-sectional, four case-control, four prospective or retrospective cohort studies and one randomized controlled trial) published between 1999 and 2010 assessing the risk for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) across the major genotypes of hepatitis B.

Analysis included data on 14,545 patients with HBV, with 517 cases of genotype A, 4,417 of B, 7,750 of C, 1,506 of D, 57 with A and D in combination and 298 with other and/or mixed genotypes. There were 2,841 patients with HCC across all studies.

In 33 studies comparing genotypes B (n=4,417) and C (n=6,060), HCC was significantly more common among participants with genotype C (25% of patients vs. 12%), with an OR of 2.05 (1.52-2.76). Patients with genotypes A (n=517) and D (n=1,506) were at similar risk for HCC across 12 studies (14% for A vs. 11% for D, OR=0.94, 0.67-1.32). Patients with genotype C (n=1,659) were at significantly higher risk than those with genotypes A or D (n=1,403) in 10 studies (30% vs. 7%, OR=2.34, 1.63-3.34). Analysis of HBV subgenotypes Ce (n=1,440) and Cs (n=715) in eight studies indicated a similar risk for HCC between subgenotypes (OR=1.13, 0.76-1.67) (95% CI for all).

“Genotype C HBV is associated with a higher risk of HCC than genotypes A, B and D HBV based on studies largely observational,” the researchers wrote. “This partly explains a higher risk of HCC among patients in Southeast Asia where genotype C HBV is prevalent. Patients infected with genotype C HBV, which is often associated with more active liver disease and higher risk of liver cirrhosis, should be closely monitored for HCC development and considered for antiviral therapy.”

Disclosure: See the study for a full list of relevant disclosures.

More on Metformin and Statins: Drugs Approved by the FDA for Other Purposes That May Prevent Liver Cancer

From HBF’s expert Guest Blogger, Dr. Thomas London

In an earlier blog, I pointed out that the available drugs to treat or prevent primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma, HCC) have been disappointing.  I noted that there may be drugs used for other purposes that may work against HCC.  The most promising of these was an old drug called metformin that has been used to treat type II diabetes for 17 years.  Now a new study on metformin provides the most intriguing results yet.

At the 2012 Digestive Disease Week meeting in San Diego, an enormous study from Taiwan was reported that encompassed almost all of Taiwan’s 23 million people. (I am indebted to Christine Frangou for her excellent report in Gastroenterology and Endoscopy News and have quoted from it extensively.) The investigators used the Taiwan National Insurance Database to identify all cases of HCC diagnosed from 1997 to 2008. There were 97,430 patients with HCC (most of whom would have had chronic hepatitis B). They were compared with 200,000 controls matched to the HCC cases by age, gender, and date of first physician visit.  Using the same database they linked all patients with diabetes and their treatment methods to patients with and without HCC.

From this they were able to show that patients with diabetes had a 2.3-fold increased risk of developing HCC.  In those patients who were taking metformin, however, HCC occurred about 20% less often than in those who were not treated with metformin. Furthermore, the longer patients took metformin, the lower their risk of HCC; about 7% lower for each year that they took the drug.

This study is not the final answer.  We don’t know why some diabetic patients were treated with metformin and some were not.  It is possible that the patients who did not take metformin had some unknown liver abnormality and were deliberately not treated with metformin.  Nevertheless, anti-tumor effects of metformin in experimental animals and in cell culture systems continue to be reported.  I will keep my eye out for more research on metformin and HCC and report it as it hits the medical press.

Statins are another group of drugs that are in common use. They were first approved by the FDA in 1987 to lower serum cholesterol levels and thereby prevent heart disease.  Statins inhibit an enzyme in the liver used to make cholesterol.  Several isolated reports suggested that statins might also help prevent HCC.  This month investigators at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota reported a meta-analysis (a statistical method to combine results from different studies) of all the reports in the medical literature of new cases (incidence) of HCC and exposure to statin therapy.  Ten studies reporting a total of 4,928 HCC cases in 1,459,417 patients were analyzed.  Overall, patients who were treated with statins had a 40% lower risk of developing HCC than those who were untreated.  The results varied from population to population. Asian populations which were more likely to also have chronic hepatitis B, had a 50% lower risk of developing HCC, while western populations had about a 30% lower risk.

At this time we do not know what the mechanism of a preventative effect of statins on HCC might be.  Nor do we know whether statins might have been withheld from patients with high cholesterol levels because they had a liver abnormality. It is likely, however, that more information on these issues will become available in the near future.  When that happens I will report it to you.

 

Dr. Tom London – Hepatitis B and Liver Cancer

Hep B Talk is pleased to introduce Guest Blogger W.Thomas London, MD. Dr. London is internationally renowned for his many decades of work on hepatitis B and liver cancer, which started with his joining the research team  that discovered the hepatitis B virus. Dr. London has been at the forefront of liver cancer prevention and has written extensively about hepatitis B from the perspective of an epidemiologist, a clinician and a virologist. As founder and director of the Liver Cancer Disease Prevention Division at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, PA, he  developed one of the first successful community-based strategies to help people reduce their cancer risk through the early detection of chronic HBV infection. Dr. London has received the Distinguished Interdisciplinary Research Award  from the American Cancer Society and the Distinguished Scientist Award from the Hepatitis B Foundation where he currently serves as Vice-Chair of the Board and as the Senior Medical Advisor.  

Liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), is the 3rd most common cause of death in the world.  Little attention was paid to HCC in the United States until recently because it was thought to be rare, but now it is one of the few cancer types that is rising in incidence (number of new cases per year). It is now the most rapidly increasing cancer in men in the US. The prognosis of HCC is poor; one year survival in the United States from the time of diagnosis is only 50%.  Detection of tumors when they are very small, less than 2 cm in diameter, and can be removed surgically is the best chance for cure.  Liver transplantation is often done if there is more than 1 tumor and the cancers are less than 3 cm in diameter.  Unfortunately, most HCCs are diagnosed when they are too large for successful surgical resection or transplantation.

Chemotherapy for HCC has been disappointing. Recently, the drug, Sorafenib (Nexavar), has been shown to be active against HCC, but it only extended survival time by a few months.  Thousands of drugs have been developed by the pharmaceutical industry for a great variety of conditions.  Of these, 983 have approved by the FDA.  That is they were tested in clinical trials, found to be safe and were beneficial for the purposes that they were approved

Scientists at the Hepatitis B Foundation and elsewhere have raised the question, are there drugs on the currently approved FDA list that are used for other purposes that might have a role in the treatment or prevention of HCC?  Recent publications suggest 2 candidates.  One is metformin (Glucophage), which is derived from the French lilac, and has been used in Europe since 1958 to treat Type 2 diabetes and in the United States since 1995. The other is propranalol, which is used to treat patients with cirrhosis who have varicose veins in the lower end of their esophagus (esophageal varices).

Diabetes is a recognized risk factor for HCC, particularly in persons who are obese and have a fatty liver. (Diabetics are also at increased risk of acquiring hepatitis B). Because patients with diabetes are often treated with metformin, investigators in China and France have looked at whether treatment with metformin lowers the risk of developing HCC.  By examining the records of diabetic patients who were treated with metformin or not, they observed that the risk of HCC was lower in the treated patients.  Furthermore, an experimental study of liver cancer in mice showed that metformin reduced the number and size of liver tumors.

Propranolol is used to lower the pressure in the portal vein and thereby in esophageal varices.  A group of physicians in France looked at the occurrence of HCC in patients with hepatitis C and esophageal varices who received propranolol treatment and those who did not.  There was about a 75% reduction in the incidence of HCCs in the propranolol treated patients.  Propranolol blocks receptors for epinephrine (adrenalin) and nor-epinephrine on cells in the body.  Such receptors are particularly rich on the surface of tumor cells, including HCCs. Experimentally propranolol has been effective in reducing the size and number of  several different kinds of tumors.

The studies that have been done so far are intriguing, but they are not conclusive.  Neither drug has been studied in a clinical trial to either treat established HCCs or to prevent HCC from occurring in the first place.  Such studies are in the planning stages.  Keep watching for progress on this front.

 

Statins May Prevent Liver Cancer For Those With HBV

Good news for those with chronic hepatitis B that are taking cholesterol-lowering statins.  Results published in Jan. 23 Journal of Clinical Oncology show statins may actually lower the risk of liver cancer for those living with chronic HBV in a dose dependent manner. The study monitored 33,413 hepatitis B patients for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) between 1997 and 2008 and tracked the number of HCC cases since 1999.

These are important findings because chronic hepatitis B significantly increases the risk of liver cancer, which causes 80% of primary liver cancers (HCC) worldwide. In the U.S., HCC is the second deadliest cancer with a five year survival rate of less than 10%. Those with chronic HBV are 100 times more likely to develop liver cancer than those without HBV. There are a number of contributing risk factors such as age, gender, ethnic background, family history, smoking history, and extent of liver damage. Despite the known risks, it is impossible to predict without regular liver cancer screening.  Be sure to discuss the guidelines for liver cancer screening with your doctor, as there are specific risk factors that may make monitoring sooner and more frequent, important.  Make liver cancer screening part of your bi-annual or annual monitoring of your HBV and liver health.

So, how do statins reduce the risk of liver cancer for those with Chronic HBV?  The mechanism has not been determined and will require further study.  Statins may reduce the risk of HCC, but it is important to carefully discuss the use of statins with your liver specialist and other treating physicians. Monitoring of your liver enzymes while taking statins is important for those without HBV, but it is even more critical if you have HBV.  Start with a baseline of your liver enzymes (ALT/AST) before beginning statin use, followed by testing at 6 and 12 week intervals.  You want to ensure your ALT/AST levels do not increase by more than three times the upper limits of normal.  Any spikes in your ALT/AST levels will likely occur in the first three months of statin use.  Elevated levels may require a discontinuation of one statin and a simple switch to another.  With the help of your treating physician(s) you will determine what is best for your unique situation to ensure the benefits of statin use outweigh the risks.

And if you are taking a daily statin, don’t forget the importance of eating a well-balanced diet. Sitting down to a big-ole cowboy steak with your statin is probably not what the doctor had in mind when he prescribed cholesterol-lowering medication!

Living With HBV and Drinking Coffee

The pros and cons of drinking coffee have been wildly debated for years.  However, for those with Hepatitis B and other liver diseases, the addition of a couple of cups of coffee per day to slow down the progression of liver disease, along with decreasing the risk of diabetes and heart disease just makes sense.

Dr. Melissa Palmer was a guest speaker at a previous Hepatitis B Foundation patient conference. The information from her presentation had all sorts of nutritional nuggets for those with HBV (Check out Dr. Palmer on podcast if you would like to have a listen!) She stated, based on studies, that coffee and caffeine intake has been associated with improvements in liver ALT and AST levels.  There also seems to be a correlation between increased coffee consumption and warding off cirrhosis and HCC.

Just recently there are was an article that discussed the benefits of coffee for those patients with HCV, undergoing treatment with pegylated interferon (PEG) and ribavirin therapy.  It claimed that drinking three or more cups of coffee a day not only reduced some of the difficult side-effects associated with treatment of PEG, but it also increased the treatment success.  However, like so many of these coffee studies, it was a small study and had to be adjusted for other factors.

We all know that HBV and HCV are very different viral infections, but you have to wonder if any of the benefits of coffee that is seen in those being treated for HCV can be extrapolated to include those with HBV being treated with Pegylated interferon or antivirals.  Dr. Palmer did mention that coffee did seem to have a greater impact on those with hepatitis C, although I have no idea why.

Regardless, if you’re living with HBV, you have to think about the pros and cons of adding coffee to your daily list.  Since all studies seem to show an increased number of cups of coffee having a more positive impact on preventing liver disease progression, or warding off cirrhosis or potentially reducing PEG side effects or benefiting treatment, you have to consider just how much caffeine you can take.  It does not appear that caffeine is the only factor involved, but rather the coffee bean itself and associated antioxidant features.  This seems to be the case because tea, despite all of its benefits, does not appear to have the same protective effect on the liver.

What about decaffeinated coffee?  I kept looking to see if it was specifically referenced, but I haven’t seen it. However, during the decaffeinating process, much of the bean is lost, and it may be treated with a chemical solvent, both which might nix the positive benefits.  If you’re going to give decaffeinated coffee a try, consider a coffee with a more natural decaffeinating process. Personally, I’d have a tough time balancing the jitters and racing heart rate associated with drinking more than a cup or two of high-test coffee a day, but we’re all individuals.  If you can drink coffee and sleep well at night, it seems like it can’t hurt your liver health to add a few cups to your daily regimen.