A single gene variation found in those suffering from cirrhosis of the liver could greatly increase their risk of developing a liver tumour, according to new research.
The study conducted at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Centre found that the alteration in the epidermal growth factor could increase the patient's chances of needing cancer treatment.
The gene variation is said to lead to increase the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) – a live tumour which is the third leading cause of cancer death.
Kenneth Tanabe, chief of surgical oncology at the hospital, said that if the results were confirmed, the gene variation could help to determine which cirrhotic patients should undergo more intense screening for tumour development.
He said: "We now need to prospectively study EGF levels in cirrhotic patients, to see if elevated levels will correlate with a greater risk of developing HCC, and look at factors such as diet, drugs or ethnicity that may modulate EGF levels."
"I think this is a terrific opportunity to see if targeting a specific pathway will prevent HCC in this group of patients, who are at risk for liver cancer because of their cirrhosis."