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Professor Ellie Barnes and her team win a prestigious Cancer Research UK Early Detection Programme Award to research the earlier detection of hepatocellular carcinoma.

Image of liver scan

With this £2.5 million, five year award from Cancer Research UK (CRUK), Chief Investigator Ellie Barnes and her team aim to understand more about the changes in the liver as cancer develops and use this to inform new, more sensitive diagnostic tests with the ambition of detecting liver cancer earlier.

Liver cancer is the fastest rising cause of cancer death in the UK, with more than 5,000 deaths per year. Diagnosing liver cancer earlier, when current treatments are more effective, is critical for improving survival. However, this is challenging because symptoms are vague and late-presenting, and are frequently masked by co-occurring liver disease, such as cirrhosis. There are a number of conditions that increase the risk of liver cancer, including viral hepatitis, obesity and alcohol, leading to liver inflammation and cirrhosis. Surveillance of people at higher risk can reduce mortality but effectiveness is limited by the low sensitivity of current detection methods.

In this research programme, scientists aim to learn more about the origins of liver cancer and develop more sensitive detection tests. The Oxford-led team will investigate people with and without cancer to identify factors that will enable better risk assessment and earlier cancer detection. Their research will include analysis of molecular profiles in both the liver tissue and the blood, and advanced liver imaging.

Read more on the Oxford Centre for Early Cancer Detection website