Hepatitis B Foundation Advocates are ‘Making the Link’ Between Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer in Philadelphia

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Hepatitis and cancer advocates urge Philadelphia city leaders to help decrease liver cancer rates by making chronic viral hepatitis testing and treatment a local priority

Hepatitis B Foundation press conference event audience

An estimated 5 million Americans and 65,000 Philadelphians are living with these viruses, which are leading causes of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplants.

More than 80 representatives of the Hepatitis B Foundation, Hepatitis C Allies of Philadelphia, Hep B United Philadelphia, and the Prevent Cancer Foundation held an event on National Hepatitis Testing Day outside of Philadelphia City Hall to raise awareness of the silent epidemic in the city of viral hepatitis, the leading cause of liver cancer.

Foundation leaders and the citywide coalition they created, Hep B United Philadelphia, helped organize the press conference to urge city leaders to support increased testing and treatment for hepatitis B and hepatitis C in Philadelphia’s at-risk populations in order to prevent disease and death from liver cancer, which is the second deadliest cancer.

“Hepatitis B and C viruses are serious public health concerns. An estimated 5 million Americans and 65,000 Philadelphians are living with these viruses, which are leading causes of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplants,” Philadelphia Councilwoman Cindy Bass said at the press conference. Bass represents the 8th Council District in Northwest Philadelphia. “And most people living with hepatitis B and C are not aware of their infection.”

Philadelphia City Councilman-at-large David Oh presented the group with a City Council Resolution expressing support of increased attention to viral hepatitis infection and its consequences, the most significant of which is liver cancer. While rates of other cancers are declining, the rate of liver cancer is increasing in the United States. A little known fact is that liver cancer’s 5-year survival rate is less than 12 percent. Making the link between chronic viral hepatitis and liver cancer is essential to saving lives.

“While the Hepatitis B Foundation is supporting research into treatment for hepatitis B infection, we also are doing everything we can to call for increased screening, education and access to life-saving care for Philadelphia residents,” said Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH, Director of Public Health for the Hepatitis B Foundation.

Also in attendance at the event were former Philadelphia City Health Commissioner and Hepatitis B Foundation board member Dr. Walter Tsou; Dr. Hie‐Won Hann, Professor of Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital; Dr. Edith Mitchell, Professor of Medical Oncology at Thomas Jefferson University; Dr. Carolyn Johnson, Philadelphia Acting Deputy Health Commissioner and Director of the Division of Disease Control of the Philadelphia Department of Health; Carolyn Aldigé, President and Founder, Prevent Cancer Foundation; Dr. Philip Siu, Medical Director, Chinatown Medical Services; and Jin Yun Yang, a Philadelphia resident who shared the story of her personal journey with chronic hepatitis B infection.

Philadelphia is closely linked to the discovery of and efforts to combat the hepatitis B virus. The late Dr. Baruch Blumberg was at Fox Chase Cancer Center in 1967 when he identified the hepatitis B virus, for which he won the Nobel Prize in Medicine. He also co-invented the vaccine for hepatitis B, which is manufactured by two companies, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline, both headquartered in the Philadelphia region. The first animal that was discovered to be most useful in studying hepatitis B was a groundhog living at the Philadelphia Zoo, and the only national nonprofit organization dedicated to finding a cure for hepatitis B, the Hepatitis B Foundation, was established just outside Philadelphia.

About the Hepatitis B Foundation: The Hepatitis B Foundation is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization solely dedicated to finding a cure for hepatitis B and improving the quality of life for those affected worldwide through research, education and patient advocacy. To learn more, go to hepb.org, read our blog at wp.hepb.org, follow us on Twitter @HepBFoundation, find us on Facebook at facebook.com/hepbfoundation or call 215-489-4900.

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Sarah Larson
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