Researchers at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center announced Tuesday that they have been awarded a grant of nearly $3 million from the National Cancer Institute to develop a test to help detect early-stage liver cancer for people who are at risk of developing the disease.

“The entire goal is to detect liver cancers at a stage when they can be treated and cured,” said Dr. Vatche Agopian, director of the Dumont-UCLA Liver Cancer Center.

“Unfortunately, the majority of patients are diagnosed with late stage liver cancer where the tumor is locally advanced or has spread to other parts of the body, making it very difficult to treat,” Agopian said. “We’re hoping this technology will help improve outcomes for our patients with this deadly malignancy.”

Agopian is leading the team along with Hsian-Rong “HR” Tseng, professor of molecular and medical pharmacology. Other investigators of the $2.97 million grant include Dr. Sungyong You from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Researchers noted that more than 42,000 new cases of liver cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States — a rate which has more than tripled since 1980.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 30,000 people die from the disease every year, with the death rate continuing to rise for the past two decades.

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