Diseases & Research

Liver Cancer

hepatitis c cells

Hepatitis C virus particles (white and pink) around lipid droplets in infected human liver cells.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

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Hutchinson Center scientists are pursuing new therapies for liver cancer and developing news ways to detect the disease at its earliest, most treatable stages.

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Fast Facts

  • There are several forms of liver cancer, the most common of which is called hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Most primary liver cancers begin in liver cells, or hepatocytes.

  • Liver cancer's main cause is infection with hepatitis B or hepatitis C. Other risk factors include heavy alcohol use, obesity and diabetes.

  • The number of liver cancer cases associated with hepatitis C infection is likely to triple over the next 10 to 20 years because of virus's high incidence. Hepatitis C affects an estimated 3 percent of the world's population and 2 percent of the U.S. population.

  • The overall survival rate of HCC is poor because most patients are diagnosed when the tumor is in an advanced stage.

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Prevention & Causes

Unraveling why hepatitis C triggers liver cancer –  Dr. Laura Beretta is studying healthy liver tissue to learn how it becomes cancerous, and is investigating why some people develop liver cancer after a hepatitis infection while others do not. This research may also lead to effective early-stage therapies for hepatitis C and liver cancer.

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Detection & Diagnosis

Detecting liver cancer at its earliest stages – Dr. Laura Beretta leads research to identify particular genes and proteins involved in liver cancer development, which is currently not well understood. The goal is to single out biomarkers — telltale molecules in the blood — that are necessary for hepatitis C to replicate and that could help detect liver cancer at its earliest stages, when it’s most treatable.

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