Doctor’s research into disease that claimed his brother is described as a major breakthrough

DANVILLE – A Geisinger researcher on a personal crusade against hepatitis C has been nominated for a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) award recognizing his unprecedented approach to addressing a major public health concern.

Dr. Joseph Boscarino, senior scientist at Geisinger Health System in Danville, is one of a team of researchers nominated for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Charles C. Shepard Science Award for data methods and study design.

“Hepatitis C killed my younger brother in 2010, so finding a cure for this disease is very personal for me,” Boscarino said.

Boscarino, whose brother George started the Bosco’s Buddies Hepatitis C Foundation prior to his passing, along with researchers from the CDC in Atlanta, Henry Ford Health System in Detroit and Kaiser Permanente in Portland, Oregon, and Honolulu, Hawaii, are nominated for their work on a paper titled “Baseline characteristics and mortality among people in care for chronic viral hepatitis: The Chronic Hepatitis Cohort Study.”

The study was the largest ever of its kind to investigate chronic hepatitis B and C in the United States.

The paper, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases in January 2013, assessed more than 11,000 patients with chronic hepatitis infections, including hepatitis B and C, determining that these viruses are a substantial health burden in the United States, particularly hepatitis C among people born between 1945 and 1964.

“In our country today, there is a great deal of emphasis put on the research and treatment of different types of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and the like – and rightfully so – but the Chronic Hepatitis Cohort Study sheds light on the fact that chronic hepatitis B and C should be treated with the same sense of urgency,” Boscarino said. “This study is the largest of its kind to examine the incidence and health care impact of chronic hepatitis B and C in the U.S. population, and the results are enlightening with respect to the prevalence, treatment and course of chronic hepatitis disease.”

In honor of Dr. Charles C. Shepard, the internationally recognized microbiologist who was chief of the Leprosy and Rickettsia Branch at CDC for more than 30 years, the CDC hands out five awards annually – four for outstanding scientific publication and another for lifetime scientific achievement.

Upon being nominated, Boscarino and his colleagues now will be subject to a committee review that includes two co-chairs, an executive secretary and 17 reviewing members. The committee’s decisions are expected later this year.