Grant success for liver research projects

Liver Foundation

31 May 2021

Two exciting Liver disease related projects have secured funding from the Federal Government’s $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund.

Associate Professor Amany Zekry from UNSW Microbiome Research Centre, has been awarded $4 million to develop microbial based biomarkers, powered by artificial intelligence, for the early detection of liver cancer.

A/Prof. Zekry commented, “Liver cancer is increasing in Australia and has one of the highest cancer related mortality rates, yet this cancer is potentially curable if detected early. Our work will discover, validate and translate microbiome and metabolome based biomarkers for the early detection of liver cancer. Access to longitudinal samples combined with state-of-the-art microbiome, metabolomics and artificial intelligence capability, offers great hope to produce impactful research that will improve outcomes among patients with liver disease.”

Associate Professor Leon Adams from the UWA Medical School was awarded $3.2 million to carry out a nationwide trial to identify cirrhosis and liver cancer in patients sooner. In this study 2800 patients with risk factors for cirrhosis and liver cancer will be recruited from rural and urban general practices around Australia to assess the effect and cost of a strategy to diagnose cirrhosis early and survey patients for liver cancer.

“Most patients with liver cancer, or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), have undiagnosed underlying cirrhosis and have missed the opportunity for surveillance that could detect this earlier and improve survival. We have established an accurate cirrhosis detection pathway and aim to examine its effect and cost on early diagnosis and surveillance of liver cancer compared to usual care. Our study will provide the rationale to promote the detection of liver cirrhosis and surveillance of liver cancer away from tertiary specialist centres to primary care, where the bulk of chronic liver disease exists,” Associate Professor Adams said.

“Cancer remains the leading cause of death in Australia. We’re providing $21 million through the 2020 Improving Diagnosis in Cancers with Low Survival Rates Grant Opportunity to eight projects, which aim to improve the early diagnosis of ovarian cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer, as well as cancers where the primary site or origin is unknown”, said The Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care.

Liver Foundation Chief Executive Officer Richard Wylie said, “To see projects as practical and much needed as these receive MRFF funding, is wonderful to see. On behalf of Liver Disease sufferers across Australia I’d like to congratulate Associate Professor Zekry and Associate Professor Adams and thank Minister Hunt and the Morrison Government for making this funding available”.

For more information on this story: www.health.gov.au/ministers/the-hon-greg-hunt-mp/media/180-million-in-medical-research-to-improve-the-lives-of-australians