Liver cancer genes identified in Antwerp

Researchers at Antwerp University Hospital and Antwerp University have discovered a set of genes that indicate whether somebody will develop cancer of the liver. 

Researcher Stijn Van Hees says that in this way doctors can intervene more swiftly and save lives.  Today cancer of the liver is all too often discovered too late in the day, while a full recovery is only possible thanks to treatment at an early stage.

Cancer of the liver is the sixth most prevalent cancer in Belgium. Judged by deaths it’s in the Top 3.  Prof Thomas Vanwolleghem says that doctors can seldom ensure patients make a full recovery: “If a tumour is diagnosed early, a transplant or removal of part of the liver is required. Too often the cancer is discovered in an advanced stage.  Chemotherapy can provide months more of life, not years.”

Research at Antwerp University Hospital centred on liver biopsies of patients with a hepatitis infection.  Stijn Van Hees “We looked to see which patients went on to develop cancer.  Their biopsies were compared with those of people who didn’t go on to develop cancer”.

Computer programs were used to discover links in the data. The conclusion was that 500 genes develop differently in patients with cancer of the liver. The results of the research are promising.

Stijn Van Hees: “Our research offers possibilities to forecast cancer of the liver and reveal which genes play an important role in development”.