Diseases / Research

Liver Cancer

liver tumor

Hematoxylin and eosin stain of hepatocellular carcinoma (right) with adjacent non-cancerous tissue (left). cancer

Photo by Fred Hutch Experimental Histopathology

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

Researchers are studying why some people get liver cancer after a hepatitis C infection.

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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