Matthew Evans, a 2010 Pew biomedical scholar, has led a research effort revealing new information on the hepatitis C virus, or HCV, a liver disease that affects more than 3 million people in the United States.
The study, published in Nature Communications, demonstrated how HCV becomes resistant to antiviral treatments. In addition—and with assistance from Arvin Dar,* a Pew-Stewart Scholar for Cancer Research—the investigation shed light on the link between the virus and cancer.
“There is a critical need for more weapons in our arsenal to fight HCV—particularly for affordable, effective treatment as we try to stay a step ahead of this virus and prevent it from developing the kind of drug resistance we’re seeing in the bacterial realm,” Evans said in a press release.
The research team explored HCV’s response to an experimental treatment that cut off the supply of a certain molecule that the virus uses to infect cells. They found, contrary to their expectations, that the treatment triggered the emergence of drug-resistant viral strains that could infect cells with only small amounts of the molecule. This finding could help clinicians determine the best treatment options for patients affected by the virus.
They also discovered that HCV decreased the activity of the same molecule, which acts as a tumor suppressor in the liver. Future studies that build upon this work could pinpoint the precise way the virus leads to the development of cancer and inform new interventions to prevent it.
*The Pew-Stewart Scholars for Cancer Research is a national initiative funded by the Alexander and Margaret Stewart Trust and administered by Pew to support promising early-career scientists whose research will accelerate discovery and advance progress to a cure for cancer.