Olympic gold medal winner Lisa Leslie and Covidien launch new liver cancer education program

Four-time Olympic gold medal winner and three-time WNBA Most Valuable Player Lisa Leslie is teaming with Covidien (NYSE: COV), a leading global provider of healthcare products, to launch an educational program and Web site, www.MyLiverCancerOptions.com, that provide information to help patients and their families understand the treatment options available to manage liver cancer.

The program is part of October’s Liver Awareness Month, sponsored by the American Liver Foundation, and will feature Leslie discussing her family’s experience with liver cancer. In December 2000, doctors diagnosed Leslie’s stepfather with stage III primary liver cancer. He died two months later.

“Liver cancer is a horrible disease, and it changed my family forever,” Leslie said. “After my stepfather’s diagnosis, we were told there were no treatment options for him, and he died shortly thereafter. For that reason, I believe it is critical to spread the word about liver cancer prevention and treatment options.”

In the U.S., liver cancer is on the rise. A study published in the March 2009 issue of Journal of Clinical Oncology reported that the incidence of liver cancer in the U.S. tripled between 1975 and 2005, from 1.6 to 4.9 cases per 100,000 people. The latest estimates from the American Cancer Society show that an estimated 22,620 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with liver cancer in 2009. Survival rates are improving, however, in part because more diagnostic and treatment options are available today than in 1975.

“The diagnosis of liver cancer sends patients and their families in search of solid information, and we have heard from clinicians that there is a tremendous need for reliable sources of educational materials,” said Dr. Ned Cosgriff, Chief Medical Officer, Energy-based Devices, Covidien. “The Web site will help patients navigate treatment options and be better informed when discussing their medical care with their physicians.”

The Covidien Web site, www.MyLiverCancerOptions.com, encourages patients and caregivers to become advocates for care by providing information on the disease and treatment options. It also includes questions to facilitate patients’ conversations with their physicians.

As part of the program, hospitals can receive liver cancer patient education kits, which contain a URL card and magnet to direct patients to the Web site, and a CD with print and Web materials for hospitals to use to spread awareness of the information available.

“This site will be an excellent resource for patients,” said Dr. Bassel El-Rayes, a gastrointestinal oncologist at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., who was one of several consulting physicians who reviewed the site for Covidien prior to launch.

“During Liver Awareness Month, the American Liver Foundation will focus on education and advocacy. We want the public to have a better understanding of liver disease and learn how they can keep their livers healthy,” said Regina Musyl, Vice President, Rocky Mountain Division, American Liver Foundation. “This site will be a valuable tool and will help us in our effort to raise awareness and educate patients.”

According to Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) data, 16,986 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with cancer of the liver and intrahepatic bile duct in 2006, the last year confirmed data is available. But of the patients diagnosed with primary or metastatic liver cancer, fewer than 27 percent may be candidates for surgical resection – the gold standard of treatment. Patients and their families need to understand the range of available treatment options and speak with their doctors to determine which option or options may be best for them.

“Covidien is committed to working with medical professionals to improve the health and well-being of patients,” said Christopher Carlton, Global Vice President and General Manager, Interventional Oncology, Covidien. “This Web site provides a much-needed source of fair and balanced information and education for liver cancer patients.”

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