The HECAM Project

HepatoCellullary Carcinoma (HCC)

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), or hepatocarcinoma, is the most common form of primary liver cancer, accounting for more than 91% of these types of cancer. Its prevalence places it in men and women at the 5th and 7th rank of the most widespread cancers worldwide. In 2011, the global annual incidence was around 750,000 new cases per year, of which, according to Datamonitor, about 89,100 new cases in the 7 major pharmaceutical markets (USA, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK, and Japan).

In France, 7000 to 8000 new cases are diagnosed each year. It has been estimated that over the period 2010 - 2020, the annual increase in diagnosed HCC is 3%. The incidence is likely to continue to increase due to the emergence of obesity and metabolic syndrome (for example).

750 000 new cases per year, 695 000 deaths annually

HCC is often based on pre-existing liver diseases, and very rarely on a healthy liver. It consists of a cirrhosis in more than 90% of cases and is more rarely a non-cirrhotic chronic liver disease. The etiology of cirrhosis (and therefore HCC) consists of viral infections (chronic hepatitis B or C), metabolic diseases (obesity, diabetes), or linked to food carcinogens in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, alcohol consumption and hemochromatosis.    

In developing countries, the incidence of the disease has risen sharply over the last 20 years due to the progression of viral infections by hepatitis B or hepatitis C viruses. In Europe and North America, the progression was mainly impacted by the sharp increase in metabolic diseases (non-alcoholic steatopathy) which could constitute tomorrow the main etiology of HCC.     

Despite its strong progress, the medical management of HCC presents many medical needs yet to be satisfied, from its early detection, its diagnosis, to its treatment :

  • Since HCC is asymptomatic in its initial phase, a large majority (about 70% of patients) are lately diagnosed, in an intermediate or advanced state of the disease, making them ineligible for curative treatment (i.e., surgical resection, ablation, radiofrequency approach or transplantation, or any other approach that provides 60-75% survival of 5 years) ;
  • Endovascular treatments, such as selective chemoembolization, for patients whose tumor is unresectable, offer a survival benefit of only 2 years compared to compassionate treatmentl ;
  • Traditional chemotherapies (doxorubicin, paclitaxel, capecitabine, gemcitabine ...), administered as monotherapy or dual therapy, have a 26% responder rate without the improvement in overall survival for patients with advanced disease (2.8 to 12 months) ;
  • Nexavar® (sorafenib, Bayer), a protein kinase inhibitor licensed for use in 2006, is the only treatment approved for the management of advanced HCC. It offers a survival benefit of 1.5 months without relapse and a prolonged overall survival of 2.3 months.

The HECAM project

The ambition of the HECAM Consortium is to collaborate on the development of new tools for screening, diagnosis and treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a primary cancer of the liver. The HECAM project is led by GE Healthcare, in partnership with 8 other manufacturers: Guerbet, Biopredictive, BioSIMS, CarThera, EDAP-TMS, Fluoptics, Integragen and Intrasense, as well as 3 clinical and research institutions: the AP-HP (Beaujon Hospitals, Jean Verdier, Henri Mondor and Paul Brousse), Gustave Roussy Cancer Campus, and the INSERM (UMR: U674, U773, U785, U970 and U1032).

The project, with a budget of 34M€ has been accepted in the PSPC call for proposals within the framework of the “Investissement d’avenir (PIA)” and financed by Bpifrance at the rate of 18M€. With a duration of 5 years, the project is structured in 3 work packages :

  1. Monitoring the population at risk ;
  2. Diagnosis and follow-up of therapeutic response ;
  3. Targeted therapies.

The aim is to combine the skills, know-how, experience and equipment of the industry’s giants, as well as the academics in the sector in order to consider HCC entirety (detection, characterization and treatment) and improve the treatment of affected patients or patients at risk at each stage of the disease.     

The following new solutions are expected to reach the market in a horizon of 3 to 7 years :

  • Risk scores and predisposition biomarkers ;
  • Early biomarkers ;
  • Multi-parameter characterization tools in imaging ;
  • Targeted therapy agents and technologies ;
  • Guiding imaging of the therapeutic gesture.

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Assistance Publique
Bio Predictive
Gustave Roussy