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Hepatitis Experts to Meet in Pittsburgh for World Hepatitis Day

PITTSBURGH, May 19, 2010 – The world’s foremost hepatitis experts are gathering in Pittsburgh May 19 to 21 to launch the University of Pittsburgh-coordinated Hepatitis B Clinical Research Network – a consortium of 15 clinical and research centers across the U.S. and Canada. The meeting coincides with today’s third-annual World Hepatitis Day, which is raising awareness about the 1 in 12 people living with hepatitis B and C worldwide.

The network, whose data coordinating center was funded in 2009 by a seven-year, $11 million grant to Pitt from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, is facilitating clinical and basic research on hepatitis B and developing a multi-site treatment trial and major database of study results. During the meeting, experts will discuss initiating clinical trials to address current challenges of when to start and stop treatment.

“Current treatments for hepatitis B are effective in addressing symptoms and containing the infection, but they do not cure it,” said Steven Belle, Ph.D., principal investigator of the data coordinating center for the grant and professor of epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. “Many patients need to stay on therapy for a long time, which often allows the virus to become resistant and makes further treatment ineffective.”

“Despite the availability of safe and effective vaccines for almost 30 years, the number of adults with chronic hepatitis B in the United States has remained relatively unchanged,” said Anna Lok, M.D., chair, Hepatitis B Clinical Research Network Steering Committee and professor, University of Michigan School of Medicine. “These people are at risk of cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer.”

More than 1 million Americans are chronically infected with hepatitis B and it is one of the most common causes of liver cancer worldwide.

In addition to Pitt, experts will attend from Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Mayo Clinic, Saint Louis University, University of California at Los Angeles, University of California at San Francisco, University of Michigan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Pennsylvania, University of Texas Southwestern, University of Toronto, University of Washington, Washington University School of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

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