Baylor receives NCI grant to study liver cancer risk and prevention
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. Department of Medicine and professor in the section of gastroenterology and hepatology 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.”
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 (MAFLD) patients in the Texas Hepatocellular Carcinoma Consortium, a large multisite prospective cohort study funded by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) 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, including metformin, statins and glitazones, are associated with a reduced risk of developing liver cancer and could act as preventative treatments. The researchers, led by Dr. Fasiha Kanwal, professor of medicine and section chief of gastroenterology and hepatology at Baylor, also will examine the genetic factors that contribute to differences in response to prevention medication.
The third project will examine the long-term benefits, harms and costs of different liver cancer prevention measures among patients with metabolic dysfunction. Researchers will compare the benefits of different levels of screening and surveillance and assess which patients could benefit from preventative treatments.
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.
This work is funded by the National Cancer Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health (P01CA263025).