Hepatitis causes 1 million deaths a year and 0.5 billion people are infected with hepatitis virus. 60-70% of all Dutch cases of liver carcinoma are related to hepatitis, thus it is important to develop better treatments.
One approach is to discover which type of liver cells are prone to develop into cancer cells after interaction with the virus. Previously, laboratory experiments showed that Lgr5 stem cells are prone to turning into cancer cells. Also, another, highly resistant cell type develops out of this Lgr5 stem cell which explains the resistance of liver carcinoma for current treatment. Now they try to prove that their findings are consistent with developments in patients. The other approach is to strengthen a patient’s immune system by looking which protein fragments trigger an immune reaction after a virus infection and after a liver cell becomes a liver cancer cell with as ultimate goal to develop a virus that can both treat a liver cancer cell and prevent hepatitis infection.