Bringing new hepatitis C treatments to people in western Sydney – translational cancer research study

The study ‘Hepatitis C elimination in marginalised settings as a pathway for primary liver cancer prevention’ is led by Professor Jacob George, a member of Sydney West Translational Cancer Research Centre.

They are working to bring new, highly effective treatments for hepatitis C to people in Western Sydney

About the author

Professor Jacob George is Director, Storr Liver Centre at The Westmead Institute for Medical Research

He is a hepatologist and liver research scientist who studies the causes of and mechanisms for the development of liver disease and liver cancer.

His research has a strong translational component, linking laboratory and clinical research.

Professor Jacob George

What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis B and C are the types most prevalent in Australia, and related to liver cancer.

Hepatitis C is spread through blood to blood contact, and is strongly associated with intravenous drug use.

It is responsible for a third of primary liver cancer cases in Australia. It usually occurs in the setting of advanced liver fibrosis or cirrhosis.

Liver cancer is one of the fastest growing cancers (by percentage) across Australia. It has recently become one of the top ten causes of cancer death in Australia.

Who is the study aiming to help?

Hepatitis C disproportionally affects marginalised members of our society, including:

  • people with a history of injecting drug use
  • people with a history of incarceration
  • people from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds including migrants, with high rates of unemployment and other life challenges.

Professor George says there is a particular importance to finding new and innovative ways to reach these people.

“This group of people can have low health literacy, and frequently do not seek assistance for their health concerns in large tertiary hospitals.”

What role is Sydney West TCRC playing?

The integrated model of care plan was initiated through a TCRC flagship program in 2016. It continues to receive part-funding through the Sydney West TCRC.

It has received and leveraged additional contributions and funding from NSW Health, the Medical Research Futures Fund, and the National Health and Medical Research Centre.

What next?

Professor Jacob George and his team are committed to reducing the burden of liver cancer on NSW. He says there is still a long way to go, but there are promising signs.

“Modelling from the Kirby institute demonstrates that in NSW, since the introduction of the new hepatitis C treatments, the increasing burden of liver cancer has plateaued.”

“Projections show liver cancer incidence state-wide will decline over the next few years with increasing treatment coverage,” Professor George explains.

To help achieve this goal, Western Sydney Local Health District has officially launched a mobile van to make hepatitis C testing much easier and faster.

The van is offering free blood collection and blood spot testing for hepatitis C by specialist staff, along with HIV testing.

The van will be in Paramatta for two furter dates in June and August, and Castle Hill in September. See the Liver Wellness Program for more information.

What is the study doing?

What is the study doing?

Clinicians are trying to identify patients with hepatitis C and cure them of their disease as a way of preventing the future development of liver cancer.

“The program has been highly successful, delivering treatments to affected people through a community-based model of care,” Professor George explains.

“This includes nurse led clinics – part funded by the TCRC – in the community, patient and GP information sessions, as well as outreach services delivered through a mobile van.”

What role is Sydney West TCRC playing?

The integrated model of care plan was initiated through a TCRC flagship program in 2016. It continues to receive part-funding through the Sydney West TCRC.

It has received and leveraged additional contributions and funding from NSW Health, the Medical Research Futures Fund, and the National Health and Medical Research Centre.

What next?

Professor Jacob George and his team are committed to reducing the burden of liver cancer on NSW. He says there is still a long way to go, but there are promising signs.

“Modelling from the Kirby institute demonstrates that in NSW, since the introduction of the new hepatitis C treatments, the increasing burden of liver cancer has plateaued.”

“Projections show liver cancer incidence state-wide will decline over the next few years with increasing treatment coverage,” Professor George explains.

To help achieve this goal, Western Sydney Local Health District has officially launched a mobile van to make hepatitis C testing much easier and faster.

The van is offering free blood collection and blood spot testing for hepatitis C by specialist staff, along with HIV testing.

The van will be in Paramatta for two further dates in June and August, and Castle Hill in September. See the Liver Wellness Program for more information.