Dr Hamish Innes has been awarded £292,000 to help optimise cancer screening for patients with liver cirrhosis.
Dr Innes is one of four leading UK scientists working to better understand the causes and effects of hepatitis who will share more than £1million from The Medical Research Foundation.
He will use the three-year funding to develop a new clinical prediction model to estimate the benefits of liver cancer screening for patients with liver cirrhosis who have been cured of hepatitis C. The model will help doctors identify which patients would gain most from screening in terms of increased life expectancy and those likely to benefit only minimally or not at all. It is hoped the model could eventually be used in liver cancer screening for patients with other forms of chronic liver disease, such as alcohol-related liver disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. In Scotland, there are an estimated 21,000 people living with hepatitis C, which causes progressive liver damage.
Dr Innes said: “There are so many reasons why research in this area is important. One key issue is that there has been a huge increase in the number of patients with liver cirrhosis who have achieved a hepatitis C ‘cure’ – and we don’t really understand right now which patients need to be screened for liver cancer and which, if any, do not. Also, liver cancer screening is currently performed in a very ad-hoc way in many clinics – improved prediction models could facilitate a more systematic and consistent approach to screening for all patients.
“We hope this project will improve survival rates, following a diagnosis of liver cancer, in patients with cirrhosis and a hepatitis C cure. The modelling framework we develop could also be adapted to liver cancer screening for patients with other forms of chronic liver disease, such as alcohol-related liver disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.”
Dr Innes, Research Fellow in the Centre for Living’s Sexual Health & Blood Borne Virus research group, has been awarded the prestigious £292,000 Medical Research Foundation Fellowship over three years. He will use the grant to fund the Stratified Medicine Research to SUpport Hepatocellular Carcinoma ScReening Decisions for HCV Cirrhosis Patients after SustaIned Viral ResponsE (The SURVIVE Study), building on the research group’s successful Hepatitis C research. He will collaborate with the University of Nottingham, University of Oxford, University of Edinburgh, University of British Columbia, Public Health Scotland and The Hepatitis C Trust.
Angela Hind, Chief Executive of the Medical Research Foundation, said: “We hope these new studies will increase our understanding of viral and autoimmune hepatitis, and ultimately, we hope these insights will save lives. This funding aligns with our broader aim to support outstanding scientists by providing funding at a critical stage in their careers, and putting them on a trajectory to research independence, so that they can have long and fruitful careers in hepatitis research. All of which is crucial for changing people’s lives in the decades to come.”
The Medical Research Foundation awarded four grants to explore the biological processes underpinning viral and autoimmune hepatitis, which could lead to improvements in diagnosis, treatment and disease management for patients.