Initiative aims to improve cancer outcomes in liver disease

Professor John Olynyk seated in a laboratory
Professor John Olynyk, Head of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Fiona Stanley Hospital
April 9, 2018

Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH) and Edith Cowan University (ECU) are implementing a new program – the Improving Cancer Outcomes in Liver Disease (iCOILD) initiative

Leveraging ECU’s existing Masters by Research programs in the School of Medical and Health Sciences, young clinicians will be able to develop research training skills in the field of liver disease and liver cancer.

A real-time registry to track outcomes of treatment for liver cancer will also be developed, providing opportunities for outcomes-based research.

FSH’s Head of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Professor John Olynyk, said chronic liver disease and its complication of primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma) were major global health care problems.

“Primary liver cancer is the most rapidly increasing cancer in most countries and it’s estimated that by 2030 almost 60 per cent of deaths due to chronic liver disease will be due to this cancer,” Professor Olynyk said.

“At any one time, over 100 patients are undergoing treatment for primary liver cancer at Fiona Stanley Hospital with two new patients being referred to our service every week.

“Unfortunately, treatment is rarely curative, is often expensive and has marked impact on both quality and quantity of life.”

Added to this, around 80 per cent of all patients admitted to specialist gastroenterology services at FSH are for the treatment of chronic liver diseases.

Each year in Australia, the direct impact of chronic liver disease costs the community $5.4 billion. In addition, the estimated burden of disease, including loss of wellbeing, pain and suffering is in the order of $50.7 billion per annum (Deloittes Access Review, 2012).

The iCOILD initiative will also aim to establish and play a leadership role in national trials and strategies to prevent rather than treat the consequences of chronic liver disease in our community.

“The goal is not just mapping the prevalence of liver cancer but improving identification of those at risk and ultimately clinical trials for prevention treatment of liver cancer,” Professor Olynyk said.

“Preliminary discussions have already been completed for the development of the first national study in 2018.”

The iCOILD will launch in mid-2018 and will be embedded into the specialist liver services provided at FSH.