In Lima, Peru, medical doctors discovered an unusual pattern of hepatocellular carcinoma amongst patients attending the National Cancer Institute (INEN). Whilst HCC is usually found in older people, 50% of them were relatively young with a mean age of 25 years old, and their tumours were unusually large and fast-growing (advanced-stage HCC and large tumours exceeding 14 cm diameter). Also, only a small proportion (11%) had cirrhosis of the liver, compared 80% to 90% cirrhosis that is generally reported. Researchers then discovered a unique mutation spectrum at the genetic level. While consistent detection of advanced clinical stages of the tumour may reflect both the lack of screening programmes and poor access to health care in Peru, the situation encountered in the country is also most likely due to some biological features intrinsic to the local natural history of the disease in the population of Peru, and more broadly from the South American region. Younger people with HCC are mostly from the inland region of the southern-central Andes, while older people (40+) are from the coastal regions.
During the Coclican project, INEN is host to staff from ULB, IRD and APHP, to work on new methods of echography and image processing as well as holding conferences and workshops. Staff members are also seconded to ULB and UT3 in order to learn new techniques and receive training on diagnostic technologies.