Learning to Predict the Effects of Liver Cancer to Improve Care and Quality of Life

Grantee: Curtis J. Wray, MD 
Institution: University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston
Area of Focus: Cancer Control 
Grant Term: 7/1/2012 to 5/31/2020

The Challenge: The number of liver cancer diagnoses and deaths from liver cancer are rising. People who don’t have access to routine medical care because of a low income or too little or no health insurance coverage may have the worst outcomes. They are more likely to have advanced-stage liver cancer at the time of diagnosis. They are also more likely to have advanced liver disease, such as cirrhosis.

The Research: Curtis Wray, MD, and his team are collecting data from two hospitals that serve people with low incomes and people who have no or limited health insurance. They are using it to develop a model that will help predict which factors might affect survival in this high-risk group. Being able to better predict a prognosis may give these patients the ability to make more informed choices about their treatment.

For instance, a diagnosis of late-stage liver cancer often means there is no cure available, so patients may benefit more from palliative care to control and ease symptoms, which can improve their quality of life. 

Wray is also looking at how the timing of palliative care affects the quality of life for patients in this study.

The Goals and Long-Term Possibilities: Wray’s model may help other healthcare facilities that provide care to cancer patients with low incomes and inadequate or no health insurance.