On the national day of France—known as ‘Bastille Day’ in English—we hear from Prof Maud Lemoine, Professor and Honorary Consultant in Hepatology at Imperial’s Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction. She completed her medical degree and PhD in Paris, France, before working in The Gambia, and then the UK
What brought you to London, and Imperial?
Initially I came a bit by chance. I was working in a teaching hospital in Paris as a full-time clinical consultant, having completed a PhD in physiopathology of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. I wanted to work abroad and was very interested in working on viral hepatitis and liver cancer in sub-Saharan Africa. I wanted to work in a non-French speaking environment and meet other cultures. In 2011, by chance, I met Prof Mark Thursz who gave me the opportunity to join his team. I spent about 2 years and a half in The Gambia where I implemented a very ambitious research programme on liver diseases in West Africa. Then, in 2014, I moved to London. I hadn’t planned to move to London, but then I discovered a different culture—where I was given so many more opportunities than I’d have in the French system. I was extremely motivated but more importantly I felt really supported by Imperial and my department to develop my ambitions and create my own research group. I do still miss the French system from which I have learnt a lot.
I was initially going to spend a year or two as a lecturer at Imperial, but then I secured more funding to expand my research activities and really enjoyed the work environment and its management based on trust and creativity—especially as it’s much more diverse here. There are so many different nationalities represented in our department, it’s really nice.
Nora Schmit was shortlisted for the MRC Max Perutz Science Writing Award 2019 for the following article on her PhD research on predicting the impact of treatment for hepatitis B infection on preventing liver cancer in The Gambia.
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of cancer prevention? Maybe you’re thinking of not smoking or maintaining a healthy weight – great strategies to reduce your chance of getting cancer.
But did you know that the hepatitis B vaccine, introduced in the 1980s, has long protected children in many parts of the world from developing one of the most common and deadliest cancers later in life?
Although most people have no symptoms when they first become infected, the hepatitis B virus is the leading cause of liver cancer worldwide. Large-scale efforts to tackle the virus using vaccination have been hugely successful in preventing infections in children. Despite this remarkable achievement, hepatitis B infections are still very common and nearly a million people die from its consequences every year. With around 6% of all people living in Africa currently infected, the death toll there is expected to rise even further.
But while a liver cancer diagnosis is nearly always fatal, treating the infection is possible with the same drugs that work against HIV. So why do so few people receive these drugs, when over half of all liver cancer deaths globally are preventable? (more…)
For World Hepatitis Day (28 July), Dr Philippa Pristerà shares an open letter to the people that she met and interviewed early last year as part of her research study exploring the experiences of people living with and accessing care for Hepatitis C, and their perspectives on cure.
I am writing to you because you took part in my interview-based study ‘Viewpoints from hepatitis C: accessing and experiencing cure’*. Some of you I met about a month before I gave birth to my daughter, others would have met my colleague Jane Bruton who kindly took over while I was on maternity leave. Since my return to work, I have spent my time reading over the interviews to see what key themes came through and would like to take this opportunity to update you.
I want to say thank you
Thank you for sharing your story; for sitting down with a complete stranger, a heavily pregnant one, to be interviewed about your life. To help me build the context around your experiences and better understand your story, you revealed a great deal about your expectations and your beliefs, your current and past behaviour and their consequences. I was struck by your openness, and so grateful for your trust. (more…)
For World Hepatitis Day, Dr Ana Ortega-Prieto explains why she switched her research focus from hepatitis C to hepatitis B – a virus that continues its global spread despite an available vaccine.
When I first started to work on hepatitis C virus (HCV) for my PhD, the general conviction was that it was a dangerous pathogen with very unsuccessful treatments. In the past years, this has completely changed; patients used to endure one year of treatment with severe side effects, but can now expect just three months of treatment, which is generally well tolerated. The truly impressive part here is that treatment success went up from below 50% to well over 90%. This has triggered the World Health Organisation (WHO) to aim for the eradication of all viral hepatitis by 2030 – a very ambitious goal. (more…)