GENEVA, Switzerland 27 November 2017 – Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is the leading cause of chronic liver disease not only in Western countries but also among developing countries. As there is a growing need for the identification and development of new therapeutic options for NAFLD, EASL hosted its first NAFLD Summit in Rome, Italy, where over 400 scientists, academia, and industry leaders met to discuss emerging therapeutic options and stimulated efforts to address key challenges across the spectrum of NAFLD. The summit covered the basic, translational, and clinical aspects of NAFLD, with a specific focus on novel drug targets and prognostic signature development. The summit sessions managed to address the different pathogenetic processes.
NAFLD is the most common liver disorder in Western countries. The prevalence in Western countries is estimated to be between 17-46% of the general population and approximately 20% of these individuals are likely to develop progressive liver disease (i.e. Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis) which leads to liver fibrosis and cirrhosis.
Key summit highlights included:
Fatty liver and HCC
In recent years, NAFLD emerged as a major cause of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Liver cancer has become the second most deadly malignant disease, with no efficient targeted or immune therapeutic agents available yet. Research presented at the NAFLD summit revealed that inflammation and fibrosis are no longer the sole factors associated with a liver cancer, and that fatty liver represents an increased risk factor for HCC.
Hepatic lipotoxicity in NAFLD was one of the hot topics at the summit. Metabolic flexibility and metabolic adaptation are currently being targeted by new approaches.
Bile acid signaling
Bile acids serve as signaling molecules and metabolic regulators that activate nuclear receptors. Disorders in bile acid metabolism cause fatty liver disease. At the summit, it was presented that nuclear receptors could be targeted for bile acids in downstream pathways.
New therapeutic tools
The First EASL NAFLD summit set the platform for future discussions and meetings. Speakers announced new and exciting therapeutic tools, some of which included the future of imaging technology and how to non-invasively assess not only steatosis but also inflammation and fibrosis.
Some of the therapeutic tools presented at the summit hold promise and in the future, liver biopsies may be rendered obsolete.
Partners from both industry and academia were able to foster potential research collaborations and exchange fruitful discussions. The next EASL NAFLD Summit will take place on 20-22 September 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland.
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