Understanding Cancer Stemness in Liver Cancer – From Regulation to Translational Applications

  • Project Details
Project Code:T12-704/16-R
Project Title:Understanding Cancer Stemness in Liver Cancer –  From Regulation to Translational Applications
Project Coordinator:Professor Irene Oi-lin NG
Coordinating Institution:The University of Hong Kong
Participating Institution(s):The Chinese University of Hong Kong
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
  • Abstract
Liver cancer is a common malignancy worldwide and very prevalent in China including Hong Kong and a major burden to social health. It is an aggressive cancer, often inoperable and has a high rate of recurrence even after surgical resection and frequent metastasis.

We established a multi-disciplinary program to contribute to addressing this major issue. We have identified many key therapeutic targets and their molecular mechanisms regulating cancer stemness, hence providing targets for selective blocking of these functions. We have also dissected the cancer stemness and immune landscapes using single cell transcriptomic analysis. As cancer cells are maintained in a specialized niche microenvironment, we have delineated the tumor microenvironmental factors in the regulation of liver cancer stemness and identified new mechanisms, including that underlying immunotherapy, which is the now first line drug treatment for advanced liver cancer, and the resistance mechanisms.

Through these studies, we have provided a better understanding of liver cancer stemness and identified potential targets and rationale for treatment.

This program is an inter-disciplinary collaborative project involving The University of Hong Kong, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. It provides high quality research, trains the next generation of scientists, and helps maintain and enhance Hong Kong’s world-leading status in liver cancer research.
  • Research Impact
Professor NG and the team have:
• Identified key therapeutic targets and biomarkers to guide precision medicine for liver cancer.
• Established the first single-cell RNA-sequencing HCC patient cohort in Hong Kong, which is a result of a combination of availability of HCC tissues, technical platform, and data interpretation.
• Enriched the understanding of the tumor microenvironment of liver cancer.
• Identified the mechanistic rationale of combined treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitor anti-PD1 and anti-TIGIT and the resistance mechanisms.
• Uncovered the extracellular vesicles as promising therapeutic targets.
• Organized an international conference (Keystone Symposium “Cancer Stem Cells: Advances in Biology and Clinical Translation”) and yearly Symposia (2017-2021) on “Liver Cancer Stemness”.
• Published around 10 0 int er nationally renowned research papers, including in Molecular Cancer, Journal of Hepatology, Gut, Gastroenterology, Molecular Cell, Hepatology, and Nature Communication.