By Jorge A. Bezarra, MD

For me, Digestive Disease Week is, first and foremost, about acquiring knowledge — knowledge that I use to deepen my research and to improve treatment protocols for my patients.

As a hepatologist, I am particularly in tune with what is happening in liver disease, an area of gastroenterology that is extremely dynamic. I know firsthand that when we treat diseases like hepatitis C (HCV) and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), professional competency is crucial. It’s either stay current or be left in the dust.

In these topics, there are two must-see AASLD programs at DDW 2012.

HCV Therapy

  • State-of-the-Art Lecture: Who Can Wait and Who Can’t?, Sunday, May 20, 10:30–11:30 a.m., Room 6d of the San Diego Convention Center (SDCC)
  • Combined Clinical Symposium: Practitioners Delivering Specialty Care, Saturday, May 19, 8:30–10 a.m., Room 6a of the SDCC

We have reached a turning point in the treatment of HCV and these two programs will help you navigate that turning point.

Not all chronic HCV patients are the same. The state-of-the-art lecture and the clinical symposium will outline various treatment options for the disease, including the use of direct-acting antivirals. Taking into account a patient’s genetic make-up, we can even tailor the duration of such treatments. As the title of this lecture states, we are now able to determine which patients can wait for future therapies and which we can start curing right away — and which treatments should be used.

Fatty Liver Disease

  • State-of-the-Art lecture: Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Children and Adolescents, Sunday, May 20, 4–5 p.m., Room 1a of the SDCC
  • Clinical Symposium: Fat, Inflammation and the Food We Eat, Sunday, May 20, 2:15–3:45 p.m., Room 6d of the SDCC

More Americans suffer from obesity than ever before, so it makes sense that NAFLD is a top research topic in the hepatology community. It needs better ways to diagnose and effective ways to treat.

There are several recent advances in NAFLD you should know about. These two learning programs will look at one site of origin — obesity in children and adolescents — and new advances on serologic and radiologic means to diagnose and quantify fat and inflammation in the liver (bio-markers of disease). Attention will be given to diet composition in disease pathogenesis and treatment of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), the impact of physical activity and new pharmacologicals.

Jorge A. Bezerra, MD is a professor of pediatrics and staff hepatologist in the Pediatric Liver Care Center; director of research for the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition; and director of the Digestive Health Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati, OH.