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Pitt receives $11 million from NIH to coordinate hepatitis B clinical research network

PITTSBURGH, Jan. 29 The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has awarded a seven-year $11 million grant to the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health to coordinate the Hepatitis B Clinical Research Network a consortium of 15 clinical and research centers in the U.S. 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, Ph.D., principal investigator of the data coordinating center and professor of epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. "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 Dr. 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."


Contact: Clare Collins
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

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