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Why study Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC)?

Liver disease is increasingly common.  Viral infections, alcohol excess and rising levels of obesity and type 2 diabetes are partly to blame.  All of these increase the risk of developing primary liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).  We believe that our immune system, which helps us fight infections and cancers, is suppressed in people with liver disease.  This increases the chance of people affected by liver disease developing liver cancer.  It also increases the likelihood of treatment for the cancer being resisted and the cancer returning afterwards. 

How will we do this?

We want to record information about patients with liver disease and compare this to similar patients with primary liver cancer (HCC).  As part of this project, we will run a clinical trial at selected hospitals with a specialist interest in this area of liver cancer. Patients who consent to take part in the study will donate blood samples, answer lots of questions about them and their health, and donate "left over" liver samples following standard-care procedures. Our team of academic experts will then study all of the data which will lead to a greater understanding of HCC, and will inform future research.

What do we hope to find?

If we could understand how to switch the immune system back on, we could improve responses to treatments for liver cancer.  There is a new class of anti-cancer ‘immunotherapies’ which do just that.  But early studies suggest that these only work for about 15-20% of people.

We want to work out why some people respond to treatments and some people don’t, so that we can convert ‘non-responders’ into responders.  

HUNTER is a collaboration of 11 Universities from the UK, Spain and Italy funded through a partnership between Cancer Research UK, Fondazione AIRC and Fundación Científica de la Asociacion Española Contra el Cáncer.

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