How new hepatitis C drugs could tackle liver cancer, too
On average, people only live for a year once diagnosed. This is partly because most people are only diagnosed when the cancer is advanced and available treatments do not always prolong life.
In Australia, about 1,500 people a year are diagnosed with the most common type of primary liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, and a similar number die from it each year. Both numbers have doubled over the past two decades.
A major driver of the rise in the number of new cases of primary liver cancer and people dying from it has been infection with the hepatitis C virus. Over time, infection leads to cirrhosis of the liver, where scar tissue replaces normal, healthy tissue. This damage makes the liver prone to cancer.
Older drugs made a start
Until recently, we’ve seen an ageing population of people with chronic hepatitis C but few were treated. Between the early 2000s and mid-2010s, only 1-2% a year of the estimated 230,000 people living with chronic hepatitis C in Australia were treated each year with interferon-based therapy.