Plasma DNA as a Platform Technology for Cancer Detection

Professor Dennis LO and his research team
  • Project Details:
Project Code:T12-401/16-W
Project Title:Plasma DNA as a Platform Technology for Cancer Detection
Project Coordinator:Professor Dennis Yuk-ming LO
Coordinating Institution:The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Participating Institution(s):The University of Hong Kong
  • Abstract
Liquid biopsy, which is referred as the analysis of various cancer-derived biomarkers in blood or other body fluids, provides an avenue to delineate tumour characteristics non-invasively in contrast to the conventional tumour tissue biopsy. The team has developed different novel approaches of molecular analysis of circulating nucleic acids to enhance the applications in cancer diagnostics. Novel insights into the biology of circulating nucleic acids have been obtained and would facilitate clinical translation.
  • Research Impact
Professor LO and the team were the first to demonstrate that circulating DNA analysis could achieve early cancer detection using the nasopharyngeal cancer model. A large-scale prospective study has been conducted to establish the role of plasma Epstein-Barr virus DNA for screening of nasophar yngeal cancer. This work was published in the top clinical journal, the New England Journal of Medicine, and was selected as one of the ten most notable articles in that year, in recognition of the clinical impact.

The patent portfolios that cover the novel technologies for cancer diagnostics developed by the team are valuable. The patent portfolios have been licensed to various industrial partners to realize the commercial value, including Grail, one of the largest liquid biopsy start-up companies in the world.

In addition, these novel technologies have served as a catalyst for building up local talent pool. The start-up company Take2 cofounded by the team members, has started to provide the nasopharyngeal cancer screening service in Hong Kong through licensing the technology developed in this project. Take2 targets to extend the testing service to the Greater Bay Area.