Greta Pells, a medical student from Newcastle University has presented the results of a research project at the British Geriatrics Society Autumn Scientific Meeting 2012. The work was funded by the UK National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre in Ageing and Chronic Disease based in Newcastle and supports the important role of age and ageing in many chronic diseases such as primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). Greta, explaining her work in the video above, was awarded the prestigious Dr Falk prize.
Establishment of the UK-PBC cohort, comprising over 3000 patients with the autoimmune liver disease Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (PBC) from across the UK, has provided a unique opportunity to study the characteristics of this disease on a large scale for the first time. From initial disease presentation, to patient symptoms, treatment and health outcomes, comprehensive clinical data has been collated and analysed, providing exciting new insights into the processes underlying this disease and the wide-ranging health implications these have. In particular, the way patient age and gender influences a patient’s response to PBC treatments has been highlighted.
When diagnosed with PBC males are on average 5 years older than females, but are equally likely to receive optimum PBC therapy with ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA). Within the male group, age at diagnosis has no effect on treatment response likelihood. However, within the female group, those diagnosed <30 years old have only a 61% chance of responding to UDCA therapy, compared to a significantly higher number (90%) of those diagnosed >70years old. Lack of response to UDCA is associated with significantly higher risk of death or liver transplantation. This latest research demonstrates that older age at PBC diagnosis plays a protective role and predicts a more treatable disease with better outcomes. These findings are particularly relevant given that average age at PBC diagnosis is gradually increasing, as are the numbers of people diagnosed, representing an expanding but treatable clinical burden in the older population.