The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has awarded a seven-year $11 million grant to GSPH to coordinate the Hepatitis B Clinical Research Network, a consortium of 15 clinical and research centers in the United States and Canada that will conduct translational research on hepatitis B.
The network will include a multi-site treatment trial, create and maintain a large database of study results, and store tissue and serum samples to facilitate clinical and basic research.
Hepatitis B is an infection that affects the liver. About 1.5 million Americans and 350 million people worldwide have chronic hepatitis B infection, which can lead to more serious diseases such as cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer.
“Medical advances have led to many treatments for chronic hepatitis B infection and most patients respond to them,” said Steven Belle, PhD, principal investigator of the data coordinating center and professor in the Department of Epidemiology. “However, these treatments do not cure the infection, but contain it by making it more difficult for the virus to reproduce.”
Many patients need to stay on therapy for a long time, he added. And when treatment is prolonged, the virus can become resistant, making further treatment ineffective.
“We don’t know why treatment works better for some patients than others, and we cannot accurately predict who may go on to develop liver abnormalities,” said Belle. “But with the interdisciplinary expertise within the network, we hope to learn more about the immune changes that occur with hepatitis B infection and make inroads to finding a lasting cure.”
Co-investigators on the grant include Abdus Wahed, PhD, Michael Nalesnik, MD, Obaid Shaikh, MD, and Robert Squires Jr., MD, all with the University of Pittsburgh.
The network also includes 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 Southwest, University of Toronto, University of Washington, Virginia Commonwealth University, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health.