The Liver Cancer Roundtable was established in 2013 to reduce the incidence, morbidity and mortality of Liver Cancer in North America.
Caring Ambassadors Program hosted a roundtable meeting for the North American region members of WGO, government representatives, experts in liver disease and liver cancer, advocacy groups, and other health care professionals. The assembled group examined the outcomes of the survey and brainstormed solutions in the areas of awareness, prevention, screening and diagnostics, and treatment.
The ultimate goal of the Liver Cancer Roundtable is to develop a coordinated North American response by creating a national strategic plan to address Liver Cancer. In 2010, HHS introduced, “Combating The Silent Epidemic of Viral Hepatitis, Action Plan for the Prevention, Care & Treatment of Viral Hepatitis.” Since the introduction of the plan, agencies across HHS have worked together to address HBV and HCV in a manner that is unprecedented in hepatitis. Caring Ambassadors and the WGO believe it is time for Liver Cancer to have its own strategic plan that is synergistic with the work currently being done on prevention of hepatitis.
Every 30 seconds, one individual dies from liver cancer (HCC). HCC is the second deadliest cancer in the world.
Together with liver cirrhosis, it results in 1.75 million deaths per year. One in twelve of the world’s population is affected by chronic hepatitis B or C, which cause 80-85 percent of all the world’s HCC. 25-40 percent of those infected with viral hepatitis will die of the resulting cirrhosis or HCC. This is especially disturbing given that both hepatitis B and C are preventable and treatable. New drugs, just approved for hepatitis C, will cure close to 100 percent of patients infected with hepatitis C. A highly effective vaccine has been available to prevent hepatitis B since 1982. In the US, HCC is one of the very few cancers which has an incidence that is rising instead of falling, and it is the fastest rising cause of cancer death in the US. Yet, there is no US, much less global, policy or action plan to address HCC. The majority of countries don’t even have a policy to address hepatitis B and C. Universal birth and full 3 dose vaccination for hepatitis B should be a global priority, but 25% of the world’s children are still unvaccinated.
Given the number of individuals that HCC impacts in the US and worldwide, liver cancer has received very little attention from those organizations that are in a position to make real change. The WHO’s Millennium Health Goals stress HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria as the critical global infections; hepatitis doesn’t even make their list of ‘neglected infections’. This inattention to viral hepatitis is alarming, given that it results in significantly more deaths than HIV, tuberculosis, or malaria. The WHO’s policies have a very real impact; the WHO itself spends 500-800 times more per death per year on HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria than they do on viral hepatitis. The US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program has spent 63 billion dollars on HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria in low resource countries over the past eight years. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria has allocated 22.9 billion dollars to these diseases since 2002. Other philanthropic organizations, including the Gates Foundation, have spent tens of billions more. In the US, the NIH designates over 3 billion dollars per year to HIV, but only 160 million to all of viral hepatitis. The CDC will spend 1.3 billion on HIV/AIDS this year and only 30 million on all of viral hepatitis, which represents a significant increase from the 19 million dollars that were allocated in previous years.
It is clear that liver cancer needs more attention.
Despite the number of lives it impacts, neither the government nor private organizations are providing substantial resources to liver cancer and advocacy for liver cancer is essentially non-existent.