Christmas is meant to be the season of hope,
but it may not feel that way when your family is affected by serious illness…
Most of us don’t give much thought to our liver health, but it’s about time we did. One in four Australian adults has, or will develop fatty liver disease, which can just be the start of major health issues. Fatty liver disease can lead to liver cancer, the fastest increasing cause of cancer mortality in the country. Right now, the survival rate for liver cancer is devastatingly low – just 1 to 2% for patients who have progressed to Stage IV.
New treatment options are desperately needed. GMRF researchers are committed to tackling both diseases; furthering understanding of how fatty liver disease works and targeting liver cancer through anti-metastasis therapy (stopping the cancer from spreading) and immunotherapy (helping the immune system identify and attack the liver cancer). This is innovative research with life-changing potential and we need your help to make it happen.
Anh has called Brisbane home since she moved to Australia as a refugee from Vietnam in 1979. She’s been enjoying the active Queensland lifestyle and getting involved in her community, but more than anything she loves family life. Anh is kept very busy with a husband and three kids aged 17, 19 and 22, and her work as a senior nurse.
Life was going along as expected for Anh and her family. Little did she know, an invisible illness had started having an impact on her body.
“I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2011. Despite managing it well, I noticed changes to my body. I like to think I’m usually pretty strong, but I was quickly losing my muscle strength and felt tired constantly. At the time I was looking after my elderly mother as well our three kids, so I thought it was just being busy and a part of aging, so I just kept on going,” Anh says.
It wasn’t until halfway through 2015 that Anh finally got an answer for the symptoms following a series of tests of her liver function, but she certainly wasn’t expecting the diagnosis of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
“It was a huge shock. At the start, I got myself worked up and stressed about it,” Anh says.
Think about what you know (or what you assume) about fatty liver disease. Now, does the description below match up with someone you imagine might be at risk?
- Non-smoker and non-drinker
- Healthy weight (58kg)
- Healthy diet (Low-carb meals, primarily chicken or fish with vegetables)
- Active (10km walking covered per work shift)
Contributing to the increasing prevalence is the fact that fatty liver disease, in isolation, does not present any visible or severely lifestyle restricting symptoms. So most people do what Anh did and simply get on with life. However, if left unchecked, fatty liver disease is just the beginning of your problems. Fatty liver disease can lead to cirrhosis which is major damage to the point of hardening and scarring of the liver tissue. Cirrhosis can lead to liver failure and by this point reversal of damage becomes more difficult. Worse still, cirrhosis can lead to liver cancer, and that’s when the stats start to get really scary…
- 85% of liver cancer patients die within 5 years of diagnosis
- Approximately 70% of liver cancer cases are diagnosed after the cancer has metastasised (spread to other parts of the body)
- There is currently only one treatment option for advanced liver cancer
- Surgery is not an option for advanced liver cancer
Fortunately, Anh is managing her NASH and continues to participate in one of our clinical trials, yet she knows of the potential progression to cancer. Weighing even more heavily on her mind is the risk of her children developing this disease since her case was attributed to genetics rather than lifestyle factors.
“I look at people in the hospital with cirrhosis and I think I could be like that one day… I was doing all the right things but I’ve still got it, and I worry that if I got this, my children might too,” Anh, GMRF Clinical Trials Participant.
Here at GMRF we are committed to research into improving liver health. Our team is aiming to develop a bio bank to identify new biomarkers of liver disease and liver cancer so clinicians can identify patients with liver disease who are at a greater risk of developing cancer. These biomarkers will assist clinicians to better understand how to diagnose and treat patients with liver disease and liver cancer more effectively.
This Christmas, we are hoping to raise the estimated $75,000 required to establish a bio bank, and we need your help. Please give generously this Christmas and be part of research that will change lives for generations to come.