The World Health Organization has stated that viral hepatitis is an international public health challenge comparable to other major communicable diseases, including HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. While these have become less lethal, the number of viral hepatitis related death is increasing.
Hepatitis B is responsible for 53% of all cases of liver cancer – which is the 3rd most common cause of cancer death worldwide – and 30% of all cirrhosis.
From a clinical point of view, not all people chronically infected with HBV fall within the treatment guidelines. Even among those who achieve viro-suppression, the risk of cancer is still significant. Current treatments must generally be taken for life, which represents a substantial financial and lifestyle burden on societies and individuals. Treatment today does not cover all categories of infected patients and it is not accessible worldwide.
Experts estimate that liver cancer deaths will substantially in-crease in the next decades while most other cancers deaths are on the decrease. In the United Kingdom, liver cancer mortality is expected to rise by almost 40% between 2010 and 2030 while overall cancer deaths will decrease by more than 15%.
The push for a cure for CHB infection is particularly timely and builds upon a solid momentum: Scientifically, recent discoveries such as the identification of the NTCP receptor – the point of entry that the virus uses to infect cells, improved cell culture and animal models, the characterization of the function of HBx – the viral protein that favors the replication of the virus – and increased knowledge of HBV minichromosome biology are all elements enabling for a new era in HBV research. The global momentum to promote the fight against viral hepatitis and the effective curative treatment of hepatitis C virus (HCV) creates a fertile ground for a global push for an HBV cure.