TAKING AIM AT A SOUTH TEXAS SCOURGE
South Texas has the dubious — and tragic — distinction of having the highest incidence of liver cancer in the nation. A major reason is hepatitis C.
Baby boomers are at particular risk of hepatitis C. Those born between 1945 and 1965 have more than twice the rate of hepatitis C infection as the nation as a whole. Hispanics are also at higher risk.
New medications have revolutionized the treatment of hepatitis C, but early detection is critical to saving lives. A $1.24 million grant from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas, or CPRIT, is helping University Health System increase screening for the virus, and ultimately prevent the development of liver cancer in this population.
Dr. Roberto Villarreal, senior vice president of research and information management at University Health System, is principal investigator of the project, called the Hepatitis Viral Infection and Systematic Treatment Program, or HepVISTA. Dr. Anna Taranova, executive research director, serves as program manager.
The program, in collaboration with UT Health San Antonio, expands screening for hepatitis C, provides education to both patients and healthcare providers, and develops culturally and linguistically tailored patient navigation that helps eliminate barriers to care.
Preventing new cases of liver cancer will reduce healthcare costs in the long run, Dr. Villarreal said.
It is the eighth grant awarded by CPRIT to University Health System for cancer prevention since 2010, for a total of almost $9 million. Other projects have included a breast and cervical cancer education and outreach initiative, as well as a Colorectal Cancer Screening Male Navigation Program to help increase colorectal cancer screening through a public awareness campaign and a professional education training program.
CPRIT was created by the Texas Legislature in 2007 with the passage of Proposition 15, authorizing the sale of bonds to fund up to $3 billion in cancer research in Texas over a 10-year period.