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VCU liver expert featured in global keynote address on emerging health issues

Global health care technology company Siemens Healthineers enlists expertise of the VCU Stravitz-Sanyal Institute for Liver Disease and Metabolic Health to discuss innovative solutions to treat and detect liver disease, an emerging public health issue.

Dr. Arun Sanyal discusses the need for new diagnostic tools to detect liver disease Arun Sanyal, M.D., discusses the need for new diagnostic tools to detect liver disease. (Siemens Healthineers)

By Laura Rossacher

This week, Arun Sanyal, M.D., director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Stravitz-Sanyal Institute for Liver Disease and Metabolic Health, educated a global audience of health care professionals about the urgent need to find new solutions for detecting and treating liver disease. Invited by Siemens Healthineers, Sanyal was among a small group of health care thought leaders to participate in “Shape 23,” the company’s global keynote event featuring inspiring and innovative ideas to address global public health issues of the future.

Liver disease is a silent killer because it won’t let you know that something is wrong until it is terribly wrong. That’s why we need to develop noninvasive screening tools at the primary care level,” Sanyal said. “A liver biopsy, our current tool for detecting liver disease, is not performed in routine clinical settings because it is an invasive procedure. The key to prevent liver scarring that can lead to liver cancer is to detect the disease early. Like the heart and the brain, our liver is an essential organ and you can’t live without a functioning liver.”

“Siemens Healthineers Shape 23 is our annual signature event showcasing some of the world’s most respected healthcare leader,” said David Pacitti, president and head of the Americas at Siemens Healthineers. “The vision of the Stravitz-Sanyal Institute for Liver Disease & Metabolic Health at VCU and of its director Dr. Arun Sanyal is aligned with Siemens Healthineers commitment to make a valuable contribution to the fight against liver disease through patient-centered innovation and clinical decision pathways that provide greater access to patients everywhere. We are so appreciative and honored that Dr. Sanyal shared his insight and look forward to how our collaborations with the institute will fulfill our shared values of transforming patient care.”

Sanyal was joined by Charles “Chuck” Cooper, Siemens Healthineers’ chief medical officer. Cooper discussed how a blood test and future use of AI-enabled clinical decision support could help the medical community move from liver cancer detection to ultimately enabling prevention strategies. “Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which can lead to liver cancer, affects a quarter of the population,” Cooper said. “But liver cancer is often detected in late stages. What if clinical labs had more advanced tools to detect, and ultimately prevent, one of the most important emerging health issues of today?”

Established nearly a year ago, the Stravitz-Sanyal Institute was created to build an environment that fosters scientific inquiry, scholarship, and innovation to meet both current and future health challenges. Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis were among the top 5 drivers for declining life expectancy in the U.S. in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet, federally approved treatments for many liver diseases, including nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), are nonexistent or sparse. The only option for many patients with end-stage liver disease is a transplant, but demand greatly exceeds supply. The institute is positioning VCU as a global leader in research and education about liver diseases and metabolically driven disorders as well as in the care for patients with these conditions.