WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- As Liver Cancer Awareness Month approaches, the Global Liver Institute (GLI) is appealing to Congress to act now to secure the health and well-being of people living with liver disease and liver cancers during COVID-19. To meet the need of this growing patient population, especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, action is needed to ensure patients with liver disease are not disproportionately impacted.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions, including people with liver disease, might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. The burden of liver disease is expected to surge even more given recent research has found increased mortality rates from COVID-19 among people with chronic liver disease, liver cancer, and cirrhosis. Many people living with a chronic liver disease are at increased risk of developing cancer of the liver due to ongoing injury from the disease.
In a joint webinar by the European Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (EASL) and the World Health Organization (WHO) experts compared strategies in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts reported many global institutions cutting back or even being forced to provisionally shut down services deemed non-essential. Shortages in medicines, cuts in research funding, the halting of trials, and staff shortages were all listed as critical issues that will impact patients with liver cancer, and liver disease.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many health and research institutions in the U.S. to experience cuts in funding and prevention initiatives, shortages in medicines and staff, and halting of clinical trials. Without additional funding, U.S. government agencies like the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the CDC will not have the capacity to continue existing research and prevention projects and undertake new initiatives on COVID-related comorbidities that will be critical both for disease mitigation and the development of effective treatments and vaccines.
Robust funding is needed so that these vital federal agencies can restart, and continue medical research, and implement targeted prevention, and awareness efforts that would positively protect patients, and families impacted by liver disease. This necessary step is critical to ensure that people living with liver cancer and liver disease are not disproportionately impacted by this pandemic. We applaud the leadership of Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY-7), one of the primary sponsors of the LIVER Act, H.R. 3016 and S. 3074, who highlighted this need for urgent action for patients impacted by liver cancer and liver disease in multiple correspondences with Congressional Leadership.
"We urge Congress to pass the COVID-19 stimulus legislation package and other initiatives to support public health programs for vulnerable populations. Support of vital surveillance plans is critical so we can best prioritize health efforts to protect and serve patients and families impacted by liver cancers and COVID-19," said Donna Cryer, founder and CEO of the Global Liver Institute. "We must act now to help those dealing with the inconceivable burden of liver disease who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19."
Over the past several decades, liver diseases have relentlessly risen to become one of the leading causes of death and illness worldwide. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2020 there will be 42,810 new cases of liver cancer (including intrahepatic bile duct cancers) and 301,160 deaths. Moreover, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic liver disease and cirrhosis are the 6th for ages 25-44, and 5th for ages 45-64 leading cause of death in the United states. Despite the development of vaccines and antiviral agents, the global burden of liver disease and liver cancer is poised to swell yet further due to health-modulating factors such as extension of life expectancy, increasingly sedentary lifestyles, over nutrition, and now, COVID-19.
"Liver cancers won't wait for COVID-19 to resolve. We are working vigorously every day to ensure the highest safety precautions are taken so that people fighting this deadly disease have access to quality care and treatments needed," said Richard Kim, MD, Section Chief of GI Medical Oncology, Moffitt Cancer Center. "The situation is far from ideal, but we must come together across the liver cancer community to minimize liver cancer treatment disruptions as we continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic."
As October, Liver Cancer Awareness Month, approaches, the Global Liver Institute is launching for the third year #OctoberIs4Livers education and awareness campaign spreading awareness around the world about liver cancer, the second most deadly cancer in the United States, accounting for more than 40,000 deaths each year. GLI has issued a global call-to-action to double the five-year survival rate for liver cancers worldwide by 2030.
To pledge your support to this bold goal and view the proclamation, click here.
About the Global Liver Institute
The Global Liver Institute is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt not-for-profit organization, headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States, with offices in the U.S. and Europe. GLI's vision is for liver health to take its place on the global public health agenda commensurate with its prevalence and impact. GLI's mission is to improve the impact of the liver community by promoting innovation, collaboration, and scaling optimal approaches to eradicating liver diseases.
SOURCE Global Liver Institute