3 December 2019

Our researchers are committed to developing new ways to detect and treat liver cancer. But when you’re up against the fastest increasing cause of cancer mortality in Australia, a collaborative, nation-wide effort is crucial to developing solutions.

In 2017, GMRF established the Australian Experimental Liver Cancer Research Network and held its first annual Liver Cancer Forum. Since then, the network has rapidly gathered momentum, attracting eminent researchers and clinicians from across the country.

The 2019 Liver Cancer Forum, held at Greenslopes Private Hospital on the 29th and 30th of November, further strengthened the collaborative effort GMRF and the network are taking to developing new treatments and getting liver cancer on the national agenda.

GMRF’s Director of Research Professor Darrell Crawford says the establishment of the network and annual forum come in urgent response to the rapidly escalating public health problem liver cancer has become.

“Liver cancer is growing at a faster rate than any other cancer in Australia. There have been very few advances recently and the prognosis for patients is not that much improved over the past 20 to 25 years,” Prof Crawford says.

While the task ahead of the network is significant, Prof Crawford was encouraged by the record attendance for the annual forum and the high quality research presented. A notable highlight was the research conducted by Haolu Wang and Tina Liang as part of a newly established partnership between GMRF and the University of Queensland’s Diamantina institute.

“Haolu is working to develop a vaccine for liver cancer. It’s truly ground-breaking research which is in its very early development, but the work to date is very encouraging.

“Tina [pictured right] presented her research which detailed how tumour cells can break off and then get into circulation and home back in to the tumour to increase its size. It’s a very novel hypothesis around a possible contributor to tumour growth,” Prof Crawford says.

Other presentations at the forum covered a range of facets of liver cancer including models of liver cancer, tumour resistance, the targeting of cancer stem cells, and public health issues related to liver cancer such as the rising obesity epidemic.

“In this environment the quality of the work is really scrutinised. There are a lot of positive outcomes from these forums in how they are stimulating interest and advancing high quality research that is happening right now,” Prof Crawford says.

The event was made possible thanks to the generous support of sponsors Gilead, Eisai and Bayer Australia Ltd. Professor Crawford says the support of these companies has been invaluable as has their ongoing commitment to the battle against liver cancer.

“All three of these companies have liver cancer treatment agents either available right now or in the immediate pipeline,” Prof Crawford says.

The value of the Australian Experimental Liver Cancer Research Network extends beyond the forum and the collaborations it has created. Over the past three years, the network has established four key pillars of focus; public health, community awareness, clinical trials and scientific research.

“We are starting to draw the attention of political leaders, community leaders and medical research leaders to this emerging health problem.

“We have also submitted grants to national granting agencies that look to solve some of the problems in this domain,” Prof Crawford says.

In 2020 and beyond, the network will continue to implement these pillars, with a particular focus on public awareness and earlier diagnosis of liver cancer.

“There is still a lack of awareness of how important this disease is, particularly with the emerging obesity epidemic. We want to make people more aware of the risk factors of liver disease and liver cancer,” Prof Crawford says.

CLICK HERE to find out more about GMRF’s liver cancer research.