Viral hepatitis – hepatitis B and C – affects more than 500 million people globally, including almost 500,000 Australians, and is a leading cause of liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure. Our research aims to understand the biological mechanisms underlying viral hepatitis so that we can develop new therapies to cure the infection and reduce its complications.
Our research is particularly important with the advent of new drugs that promise to revolutionise treatment for hepatitis C. Through understanding the pathogenesis of the virus, we will help combat emerging resistance to new therapies, develop drugs to tackle the growing global problem of hepatitis B, and advance understanding of other RNA viruses such as dengue.
Our basic laboratory research is informed by clinical practice at Blacktown and Westmead Hospitals, giving us ready access to a patient cohort, the ability to run hospital clinical trials, and providing a vehicle for rapid translation of our research.
- The interaction between hepatitis C and lipid metabolism. We have identified new lipid pathways essential for virus replication and as a result have patented an endocannabinoid CB1 antagonist to inhibit virus replication.
- The interaction between insulin resistance and interferon signalling in some genotypes of hepatitis C. Building on our discoveries in the laboratory, we are undertaking a pilot study to test whether fenofibrate can boost the clinical response to interferon in some patients.
- The mechanisms that induce liver cancer in hepatitis B and identification of novel targets to prevent or cure this usually incurable cancer.
- The development and testing of new diagnostic assays to guide the choice of antiviral drugs and reduce resistance to new treatments for hepatitis C.
- Psychosocial research to identify barriers to treatment in hepatitis C, including the development of an assessment tool to predict how well patients will adhere to and complete their treatment.