Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC or liver cancer) accounts for 70 - 90% of primary liver cancers, and over half a million new cases are diagnosed annually worldwide. According to the World Health Organisation, over 47,000 Europeans die of liver cancer each year.
The cause of HCC is known in about 80% of cases, creating a unique perspective for prevention. The prevalence of HCC is closely related to liver cirrhosis, often times due to chronic viral hepatitis, but increasingly, alcohol, obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus are also recognized as contributors. The prognosis for the majority of those affected with HCC remains poor, although life-prolonging or even curative therapy can be offered to a carefully selected minority. The management of HCC is complicated by cirrhosis in over 80% of cases, with cirrhosis often hindering treatment and registered as the direct cause of death.
Only those in whom HCC is detected at an early stage have the chance of cure and thus a better prognosis. Therefore, we need to develop and improve the strategies and technologies that aid the early detection and risk stratification of HCC.
In its 2009 Communication on Action Against Cancer: European Partnership, the EU Commission set a target for itself and the Member States to reduce cancer incidence by 15% by 2020.
As part of this initiative the Commission established an Expert Group on Cancer Control. In 2014 it also set up the CANCON Joint Action, which aims to develop the European Guide on Quality Improvement in Comprehensive Cancer Control" ("CanCon").
In 2014 the Commission also revised the European Code Against Cancer. Drawn up in collaboration with the International Agency for Research on Cancer the Code contains twelve key recommendations on how to avoid cancer.
Securing better screening, prevention and treatment of HCC is a key advocacy goal of EASL. We are working with a wide range of partners at EU level to call for better EU policies on alcohol and viral hepatitis and for more attention to be paid to HCC in the EU’s cancer policies. EASL also hosts the secretariat for the Friends of the Liver group in the European Parliament and works with its MEP members to raise awareness about liver cancer across EU institutions.