|| DukeMedNews || Hepatitis and Liver Cancer

This week on Duke MedMinute: Randy Jirtle, professor of radiation oncology at Duke, talks about new research that shows how hepatitis leads to liver cancer.

Background: Hepatitis B and C infections slowly eat away at a person’s liver, severely damaging liver function and greatly increasing the risk of liver cancer. The Duke research demonstrates that once a hepatitis infection takes hold in the liver, even apparently healthy cells have lost one of two copies of a protective tumor suppressor gene, making them highly vulnerable to further genetic damage. Without a working copy of this suppressor gene, cancerous cell growth can’t be stopped. The discovery is particularly relevant because hepatitis, particularly hepatitis C, is responsible for about 85 percent of liver cancer cases in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 3.9 million Americans are infected with hepatitis C. Complications from hepatitis C are blamed for 10,000 deaths per year, but the CDC estimates the fatality rate could triple or quadruple within 15 years.

Suggested lead: Most people who get the hepatitis are vulnerable to liver cancer. And researchers at Duke University Medical Center say they now know the reason why. Melinda Stubbee reports on their recent finding, reported this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Jirtle says the finding demonstrates that hepatitis infection somehow favors survival of a subset of liver cells that are defective in a key cancer protective gene we know is an early marker for development of liver cancer

Cut 1..suppressor gene…:16 (Preview this in a AIFF or WAV file in 8 bit mono. For the full interview in high quality ISDN sound, call the newsline.

In Cut 2, Jirtle says this finding is a first step in understanding how the hepatitis virus damages the liver and greatly increases the chance of developing liver cancer. In addition, he says a test for the gene may help surgeons determine how much tissue surrounding cancerous liver lesions needs to be removed. Some of that “normal looking” tissue may already be on the path to cancer.

Cut 2…pre-malignant tissue…:16 (Preview this in a AIFF or WAV file in 8 bit mono. For the full interview in high quality ISDN sound, call the newsline.