HMRI Hosts Successful Liver Symposium, La Cañadan Lt. Andrew Torres Honored

Sixty physicians gathered at the Huntington Medical Research Institutes (HMRI) recently for an update on liver diseases, including liver cancer and its rising incidence rates and to hear distinguished guest speaker Dr. Willis Maddrey, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, where he also serves as vice president for clinical affairs, discuss the growing problem of Hepatitis C and liver cancer. Maddrey expressed optimism about research underway on new technology to evaluate liver fibrosis without liver biopsy, explaining that fibrosis, or scarring, usually precedes cancer and is a critical observation for accurate diagnosis and treatment planning.

Honored during the symposium was the late 2nd Lieutenant Andrew Torres (USMC), son of Leonard Torres and Anita Brenner of La Cañada, who passed away in 2004 of liver cancer at age 23. HMRI has been the recipient of funds raised by the Andrew Torres Memorial Golf Tournament over the past two years. Dr. William Corey, director of clinical research at the HMRI Liver Center, was the symposium moderator.

HMRI Executive Director Dr. Bill Opel said, "With the increasing incidence of liver cancer and the improving ways of treating people early, HMRI research is focused on developing new ways of detecting the cancer early."

Hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) is the fifth most common cancer in the world and the third leading cause of cancer deaths. Over 500,000 new cases are diagnosed every year. Its incidence has nearly tripled in the United States since 1980 and is increasing in all ethnic groups, including white, Hispanic, black and Asian.

Dr. Myron Tong, director of the HMRI Liver Center, who was one of many investigators who came to realize that the association of Hepatitis B and C is a risk factor for hepatocelluar cancer, provided an update on treatment of Hepatitis B at the symposium.

Dr. Tong also discussed effective new treatments for liver cancer.

When caught early, small tumors can be destroyed with injections or with radio energy delivered through slender probes. Some patients can also be treated effectively with liver transplants.

"The liver center has been in Pasadena for about 30 years and has always been led by Dr Myron Tong who is both nationally and internationally known as a for his involvement in studies, particularly with hepatitis B and C," said Dr. Corey. "He has continued to be interested in the treatment and has ongoing drug trials."

Dr. Edward Mena, whose medical practice and research are based at the HMRI Liver Center on South Fair Oaks in Pasadena, discussed the growing problem of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease at the symposium.

"Dr. Mena's focus on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is very compelling, because obesity can cause serious liver damage and even cancer in susceptible people," Opel explained.

Of the symposium, Dr. Corey said, "I thought it went beautifully."

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