Newcastle University is at the forefront of the largest-ever study aiming to unravel the complexities of liver cirrhosis in an ambitious project known as ADVANCE. With a budget of £30 million, this ground breaking initiative seeks to enhance our understanding of liver diseases, devise early diagnostic methods, and formulate innovative therapies for treatment.
Liver cirrhosis, marked by the scarring of the liver, impedes its proper functioning. Contrary to common belief, it is not solely linked to alcohol intake but can result from an ailment called Metabolic-dysfunction Associated Steatotic Liver Disease (MASLD). This non-alcoholic condition, if undetected, can progress to liver failure or cancer, impacting an estimated 444 million individuals globally.
At present, there are no approved medications specifically tailored for cirrhosis, emphasizing the critical importance of early detection, particularly in MASLD cases. The ADVANCE study, a collaborative effort between Newcastle and Edinburgh Universities, boasts unparalleled detailing and is generously funded by Boehringer Ingelheim.
A leading expert in Experimental Hepatology at Newcastle University and Consultant Hepatologist at Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust is coordinating the global study. They expressed, “Leveraging Newcastle’s internationally recognized expertise in translational liver research, this study will unveil the fundamental disease processes driving cirrhosis.”
The overarching goal of the study was further elaborated, stating, “We aim to discern why, even at the most advanced stages of liver disease, there is significant variation in how the disease progresses, with some individuals remaining well for many years while others rapidly experience liver failure or develop liver cancer. Collaborating internationally with our partners, we will utilize this knowledge to enhance patient diagnostics and contribute to the development of new medicines.”
The study plans to enroll a minimum of 200 patients with cirrhosis of the liver from specialized clinics across the UK and Europe. Participants will either have MASLD or be at risk of developing it. Initial steps involve liver biopsy procedures to collect small tissue samples, enabling researchers to scrutinize changes in gene expression using cutting-edge scientific techniques. Over the subsequent two years, participants will undergo periodic blood tests and state-of-the-art MRI scans, allowing scientists to observe the progression of the disease.
Collaborating closely with scientists at Boehringer Ingelheim and medical professionals across Europe, including Antwerp, Paris, Seville, and Turin, doctors from Newcastle and Edinburgh Universities will lead the research. Individuals interested in participating are encouraged to discuss the opportunity with their healthcare providers.
One individual, a retired headteacher from Sunderland who has MASLD, expressed excitement about the research. The individual, also a governor of the LIVErNORTH patient charity, remarked, “I am appreciative, grateful, and fortunate to live in a region where leading research into MASLD is conducted by Newcastle University. I would encourage all liver patients to explore participation in this innovative research with their healthcare providers.”
The ADVANCE study stands as a beacon of hope for those affected by liver cirrhosis, offering not only a deeper understanding of the disease but also the potential for ground breaking advancements in diagnosis and treatment. Newcastle University’s leadership in this transformative research underscores the institution’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of medical science and making a meaningful impact on global healthcare.