Health Department Announces Plan to Combat Hepatitis C
Approximately 146,500 New Yorkers are infected with hepatitis C; roughly 50 percent do not know that they are infected
October 7, 2013 – The Health Department today released the City’s first-ever plan for reducing illness and death from the hepatitis C virus (HCV), a disease that now accounts for more annual deaths nationwide than HIV/AIDS. In Hepatitis C in New York City: State of the Epidemic and Action Plan, the Health Department calls for new efforts to expand testing for HCV and to ensure that all people with HCV infection are evaluated for treatment.
“This is a very hopeful time for persons living with hepatitis C,” Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley noted today. “After many years in which the infection was very difficult to treat, hepatitis C can now be cured. We also expect that medications that are easier to use and even more effective will be available in just a few months, and many other promising drugs should be approved for use in the next few years.”
The Health Department estimates that approximately 146,500 New Yorkers are infected with HCV, which is usually transmitted when contaminated blood from one person enters another’s bloodstream. Many live in neighborhoods with high levels of poverty, unemployment, and other indices of underlying health disparities, including the South Bronx and East and Central Harlem, and only 40 percent of New Yorkers with HCV have been evaluated by a doctor for possible treatment. Most people living with HCV have few symptoms of illness until 10 to 30 years after initial infection, when life-threatening complications can develop. People with HCV are at risk for developing cirrhosis, liver cancer, and other types of liver damage. Tens of thousands of New York City residents — infected in the 1970s and 1980s — may discover that they have advanced liver disease without ever knowing that they have HCV.
Read the full Press Release or read the full report Hepatitis C in New York City: State of the Epidemic and Action Plan (PDF)
Stained liver biopsy micrograph showing hepatocellular carcinoma cells with Mallory bodies (reds and blacks).
For the first time, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have isolated and characterized the progenitor cells that eventually give rise to malignant hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) tumors – the most common form of liver cancer. The researchers found ways to identify and isolate the HCC progenitor cells (HcPC) long before actual tumors were apparent.
Writing in the October 10, 2013 issue of the journal Cell, principal investigator Michael Karin, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology and Pathology, and colleagues report that HcPC take form within dysplastic or abnormal lesions often found in damaged or cirrhotic livers. The liver damage can be due to viral infections like hepatitis or from chronic alcohol abuse.
“It was never established whether dysplastic lesions are just a regenerative (healing) response of the liver triggered by tissue damage or are actually pre-malignant lesions that harbor tumor progenitor cells,” said study co-author Debanjan Dhar, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in Karin’s lab. “Here we show that HcPC are likely derived from dysplastic lesions, can progress to malignant tumors and further demonstrate that the malignant progression of HcPC to full-blown liver cancer depends upon the microenvironment that surrounds them.”
The researchers were able to characterize HcPC based on several biomarkers that distinguish them from normal cells. They also identified cellular signaling pathways activated in HcPC that are critical “to their malignant potential,” said Dhar.
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