The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

A joint venture between The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital


02 Oct 2018

Research grant awarded to Doherty Institute researchers seeking to prevent liver cancer

A project designed to prevent liver cancer by helping those living with hepatitis B (HBV) and C (HCV) access healthcare has received a significant funding boost from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Royal Melbourne Hospital Associate Professor Ben Cowie, Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Viral Hepatitis at the Doherty Institute and his team have been awarded $1.6 million for a four-year project which aims to prevent liver cancer, the fastest increasing cause of cancer death in Australia.

“The majority of liver cancer deaths in Australia are preventable, related to chronic hepatitis B and C. There are 240,000 Australians living with chronic hepatitis B and nearly 200,000 living with chronic hepatitis C,” Associate Professor Cowie said.

“This funding will support a truly innovative program of work, combining the gathering and analysis of large datasets with piloting interventions in primary care settings to improve access to diagnosis, treatment and care for people living with viral hepatitis.”

“We will work with other leading Australian researchers, Cancer Council Victoria and Hepatitis Victoria, several Primary Health Networks and a large number of general practices making this a truly collaborative approach.”

There are highly effective antiviral treatments available for HBV which profoundly reduce the risk of developing liver cancer or liver failure, and revolutionary new treatments which cure HCV, but access to treatment needs to increase profoundly in Victoria, especially in regional areas, for people born overseas and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The project aims to improve engagement of people living with viral hepatitis in primary care through direct support for clinicians and patients, and developing novel resources.

“We aim to improve the level of testing and diagnosis of people living with viral hepatitis, increasing the follow-up and engagement in ongoing monitoring after diagnosis; and support GPs to provide treatment and liver cancer surveillance as appropriate,” Associate Professor Cowie said.

“These changes will greatly decrease the risk of liver cancer in people with hepatitis B and C and have the potential to save many lives which would otherwise have been cut short by this significant public health concern.”

This grant is funded through the Victorian Cancer Agency Improving Cancer Outcomes for Upper Gastrointestinal Cancers Collaborative Research Grant Scheme.