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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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VA Researcher Promotes Better Care for Liver Cancer Patients

October 11, 2011

El Serag with patient Winston

Hashem El-Serag, M.D., M.P.H., chief of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, examines Veteran Winston Hoyte. “During the past two decades, the incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma in the United States has tripled, while the five year survival rate has remained below 12 percent,” said El-Serag.

HOUSTON – Each year, more than half a million people worldwide receive a diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common form of primary liver cancer. Hepatocellular carcinoma related to the hepatitis C virus is the fastest rising cause of U.S. cancer-related deaths. A researcher at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) has summarized recent advances in prevention, surveillance, diagnosis, and treatment in order for physicians everywhere may be better educated and improve care for their patients.
The review article, by Hashem B. El-Serag, M.D., M.P.H., chief of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, appeared in the September 22, 2011 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
“Approximately 20,000 new cases of hepatocellular carcinoma are diagnosed every year in the United States,” said El-Serag. “During the past two decades, the incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma in the United States has tripled, while the five year survival rate has remained below 12 percent.”
Listed for the past few years as one of the best doctors in the nation in the field of gastroenterology, an elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigators, and a recipient of the Blue Faerry Award for Excellence in Liver Cancer Research, El-Serag is also a professor of medicine and the chief Gastroenterology and Hepatology Section at Baylor College of Medicine, the director of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences at the Dan Duncan Cancer Center, and chief of Clinical Epidemiology and Outcomes at the Houston Center for Quality of Care and Utilization. 

El-Serag has received extensive research grant funding from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, numerous foundations, as well as private industry. His clinical interests include Barrett's esophagus, chronic liver disease, and liver cancer.

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Awarded re-designation for Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Services in 2008, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center serves as the primary health care provider for more than 120,000 veterans in southeast Texas. Veterans from around the country are referred to the MEDVAMC for specialized diagnostic care, radiation therapy, surgery, and medical treatment including cardiovascular surgery, gastrointestinal endoscopy, nuclear medicine, ophthalmology, and treatment of spinal cord injury and diseases. The MEDVAMC is home to a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Clinic; Network Polytrauma Center; an award-winning Cardiac and General Surgery Program; Liver Transplant Center; VA Epilepsy and Cancer Centers of Excellence; VA Substance Abuse Disorder Quality Enhancement Research Initiative; Health Services Research & Development Center of Excellence; VA Rehabilitation Research of Excellence focusing on mild to moderate traumatic brain injury; Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center; and one of the VA’s six Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Centers. Including the outpatient clinics in Beaumont, Conroe, Galveston, Houston, Lufkin, and Richmond, MEDVAMC outpatient clinics logged more than one million outpatient visits in fiscal year 2010. For the latest news releases and information about the MEDVAMC, visit