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Paving the Way to New Liver Cancer Treatments

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In China and throughout Southeast Asia liver cancer is the second most common fatal cancer as a result of the prevalence of hepatitis B viral infection.  In Hong Kong it is the third deadliest cancer.

About 10 per cent of the population in the region is infected with hepatitis B, through mother-to-baby transmission during birth, which can lead to cirrhosis, fibrosis and damage to liver cells, which in turn can cause liver cancer.

As a result, scientists across the region are looking for potential cures for both diseases, with Professor Irene Ng and her team at The University of Hong Kong at the forefront of liver cancer therapy research with their work into liver cancer stem cells and cell signalling pathways, which underlie the cancer process.

Professor Ng’s laboratory is investigating major oncogenic signalling pathways, and the co-operation and crosstalk of these pathways. She has established promising pathological and biological parameters with improved prognostic outcomes for patients. Her research studies have provided important insight in the understanding of liver cancer development and may help to identify potential targets in novel cancer therapy.

The work also focuses on the molecular pathogenesis of liver cancer, including the identification and characterisation of key genes, as well as liver cancer stem cells. Currently the team is delineating the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of liver cancer.

Professor Ng, Loke Yew Professor in Pathology in the University’s Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, is the Director of the State Key Laboratory for Liver Research at HKU, approved by China’s Ministry of Science and Technology as a partner laboratory of the Shanghai Cancer Institute’s State Key Laboratory for Oncogenes and Related Genes.

HKU has a strong history in liver research, and Professor Ng was the pathologist on the pioneering team that performed Hong Kong’s first liver transplant in 1991 at Queen Mary Hospital, which is Hong Kong’s only liver transplantation centre.