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Liver Cancer… A Consequence of Hepatitis

Liver cancer is characterized by the growth or spread of abnormal or malignant cells in the liver tissue. Metastatic cancer spread to the liver from extrahepatic sites, such as the colon, breast, and pancreas is common but unrelated to chronic liver disease.  Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is responsible for about 90% of the primary liver cancers in adults. While HCC is more common in men than women, it affects both and affects children as well as adults. HCC is the sixth most common cancer in the world and the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths globally. In the U.S. it is the most rapidly rising cancer.

In most patients in whom HCC develops there is underlying cirrhosis or extensive liver fibrosis as a consequence of long-standing chronic liver disease. In the U.S., chronic hepatitis C is the most common cause of HCC.

There is a consensus that better biochemical and imaging methods to identify early cancers is likely to improve survival. Treatment of HCC with chemotherapy, surgical resection, transplantation and other approaches has increased overall survival but it remains suboptimal. There is a clear unmet need for more effective therapies.

An increased understanding of the critical molecular pathways that are responsible for the transformation of liver cells into malignant cells is required in order to develop specific inhibitors of the process and to fulfill the promise of chemoprevention.