UW Today

August 16, 2011

UW researchers to host landmark hepatitis C conference in Seattle Sept. 8-12

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

HCV2011 — International Symposium on Hepatitis C

Seattle, one of the world leaders in hepatitis C research and treatment, will be hosting HCV2011, the 18th International Symposium on Hepatitis C and Related Viruses at the Seattle Sheraton Sept. 8-12.

This conference is being held in Seattle for the first time and will attract around 800 people worldwide. They include the top virologists and researchers in hepatitis C, such as Michael Houghton from the University of Alberta who discovered Hepatitis C in 1989,  Steve Wiersma (WHO), Michael Gale (UW), Barbara Rehermann (NIH), Ray Chung (Harvard), Andrea Cox (Johns Hopkins), Hugo Rosen (University of Colorado), and Charlie Rice (Rockefeller University).

Hepatitis C affects 150m people worldwide – four-to-five times the number infected with HIV. The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is transmitted via blood similar to HIV. The infection is often asymptomatic, but chronic infection can cause liver inflammation, which can progress to scarring of the liver (fibrosis) and advanced scarring (cirrhosis).  In some cases, those with cirrhosis go on to develop liver failure or liver cancer.  Hepatitis C is the leading reason for liver transplant in the United States.

A number of celebrities, including Pamela Anderson, Naomi Judd, and Steven Tyler, have gone public with their hepatitis C diagnosis to bring more awareness to Hepatitis C,

UW researcher  Stephen J. Polyak, Chair of HCV2011 said this years symposium is especially exciting because it follows a recent landmark event in therapy for chronic hepatitis C: The FDA approval of directly acting antiviral compounds (Telapravir and Boceprevir).

“These new protease inhibitors, in combination with pegylated interferon plus ribavirin therapy, are expected to result in significantly improved cure rates,” he said.

Polyak said that in the United States, at least 3.5 million – 4 million are infected. Many do not know they have the virus. Moreover, he said, complications from chronic hepatitis C are expected to quadruple in the next 10-20 years.

In the era of highly effective antiretroviral therapy, an increasing proportion of patients with HIV/AIDS are dying from liver disease, most of which is due to hepatitis B and C.  Although antiviral therapy is available for these viruses, they are often toxic or can be complicated by prior antiretroviral use.

In Seattle, hepatitis clinics at Harborview Medical Center, the UW Medical Center, Virginia Mason serve immigrant communities along with others. Patients can receive further support, counseling and information from non-profit groups like the Hepatitis Education Project, which is based in Seattle. Many basic and clinical scientists at the UW are actively researching the virus, the host response to the virus, as well as performing clinical trials on new drugs that combat HCV infection.

This conference will bring together all the major researchers in hepatitis C and will highlight some of the challenges and potential solutions to this disease.

To register or find out more, please go to: www.hcv2011.org.