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Baylor Receives Grant to Study Liver Cancer Risk and Prevention

August 16, 2022 by TWN Staff
The National Cancer Institute's Shady Grove Campus in Rockville, MD. (Photo credit: National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health)

HOUSTON — Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine received a five-year, $5.5 million-plus grant from the National Cancer Institute for research on liver cancer risk factors and prevention, with the goal of reducing the burden of liver cancer in patients with metabolic dysfunction.

“The population of people with metabolic dysfunction, including diabetes and obesity, is growing at an epidemic proportion, particularly in Texas,” said Dr. Hashem El-Serag, principal investigator of the study and chair of the Margaret M. and Albert B. Alkek Department of Medicine at Baylor. 

“Consequently, Texas now leads the nation in incidence and mortality rates of liver cancer. This study is a major step toward better understanding and prevention of liver cancer in our community,” El-Serag said.

The study will consist of three independent but conceptually related research projects led by a multidisciplinary team at Baylor with collaborators from Harvard University, including experts in basic science, epidemiology, human genetics and metabolic dysfunction. 

The research will use data from metabolic dysfunction-associated fatty liver disease patients in the Texas Hepatocellular Carcinoma Consortium, a large multisite prospective cohort study funded by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas to reduce the burden and mortality of liver cancer in Texas. 

The first project will analyze the role of genetic, metabolic and lifestyle factors in the development of liver cancer. Researchers will identify genetic and metabolic biomarkers that when combined with lifestyle factors such as obesity and alcohol use, can assist in risk stratification.

“We want to move this disease into the era of precision medicine, using genetic, metabolic, lifestyle and demographic risk factors to create an index that predicts overall disease risk,” said El-Serag, a member of the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor.

The second project will examine whether medications currently in use for diabetes treatment are associated with a reduced risk of developing liver cancer and could act as preventative treatments. 

The third project will examine the long-term benefits, harms and costs of different liver cancer prevention measures among patients with metabolic dysfunction.

The grant also will fund a data and analysis core to support data management and statistical analyses and a biospecimen and biomarker development core that will assist in collection and analysis of DNA samples.

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