By Professor Simon Taylor-Robinson and Professor Mark Thursz
Liver cancer is one of the leading causes of mortality worldwide, with an estimated annual mortality rate of 500,000 with a survival rate of less than 5%.
Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver as a result of continuous, long-term liver damage) is the main risk factor for the development of liver cancer in developing countries, such as in West Africa, where viral hepatitis B is the major cause of cirrhosis.
Generally, late presentation of patients with liver cancer results in poor prognosis, due mainly to insufficient and lack of affordable screening tools for early tumour detection.
By Jeremy Laurance
Looked at in one way, the warning from the World Health Organisation of a tidal wave of cancer sweeping the globe over the next 20 years is good news. Cancer is a disease of old age – it means more of the world’s peoples are surviving long enough to get it.
But while it is good to grow old (rather than die young) no one wants to die of cancer. Many cancers still kill people before their time. And cancer imposes an immense and growing burden on families, health systems and states. Hence the WHO’s alarm call.
The organisation estimates the worldwide burden will rise by 70 per cent from 14 million cases in 2012 to 24 million in 2035, much of it borne by poorer countries.
John Chetwood, winner of the 2012 IGHI Student Challenges Competition tells us how he has put the £2000 prize money to good use.
Detecting a Silent Cancer
With the hepatologists at Imperial College London, I had been in rural Thailand investigating urinary biomarkers of ‘cholangiocarcinoma’ or simply put, cancer of the bile ducts. Though cholangiocarcinoma is thankfully rare in developed countries, it is showing worrying increases in incidence, and has shown little improvement in survival over the last 15 years. There is still little hope of cure unless detected early and nearly everyone who develops this cancer will die from it.