Research Projects
Effects of Mode of Anaesthesia in Hepatocellular Carcinoma Surgery - A Randomised Controlled Trial

Programme(s) to which this project applies:

☒ MPhil/PhD ☑ MRes[Med] ☒ URIS
About the Project

Objective and Significance:

Retrospective studies have shown that patients with cancer who undergo resection under propofol total intravenous anaesthesia (TIVA) have better 5-year disease-free survival when compared to patients who have inhalational anaesthesia. The mechanism of this beneficial effect is unknown. This study aims to investigate:
If there are changes in gene expression and plasma concentrations of inflammatory biomarkers (HIF1, IL-6, and TNF-alpha) and DNA damage induced by surgery and whether these changes are different between different methods of anaesthesia;
Whether tumour cells are released into the circulation during surgery, whether they persist in the circulation in the hours’ post-surgery, and whether the persistence is different between the different modes of anaesthesia;
Whether there are any differences in three-year survival between patients who undergo tumour resection under the two different modes of anaesthesia.

Research Plan and Methodology:

Study design, patients and methods: a randomised, controlled trial on patients with hepatocellular carcinoma undergoing open hepatectomy or laparoscopic tumour resection. Patients will be randomised to receive TIVA or inhalational anaesthesia.

Peripheral blood will be taken from patients prior to the start of anaesthesia, immediately after tumour resection, 30 minutes after the end of anaesthesia and at 24 hours' post-surgery.

Biomarkers of immunity and inflammation, circulating tumour cells and DNA damage will be investigated in the blood taken at the four timepoints.

Patients will also be followed-up for cancer recurrence, morbidity and five-year mortality through the CMS. Other anaesthesia and cancer studies are being planned to follow this.

About the Supervisor

Professor MG Irwin, Department of Anaesthesiology

The supervisor is a clinician scientist in Anaesthesiology with 30 years experience. The project will be conducted together with an oncologist.


Next Step?

For more information or to express interest for this project, please email the supervisor or the specified contact point in the project description.  Interested candidates are advised to enclose with your email:

  1. your CV,
  2. a brief description of your research interest and experience, and
  3. two reference letters (not required for HKUMed UG students seeking MRes[Med]/URIS projects).

Information on the research programme, funding support and admission documentations could be referenced online at the Research Postgraduate Admissions website. General admission enquiries should be directed to

HKUMed MBBS students interested in the Master of Research in Medicine (MRes[Med]) programme may visit the programme website for more information.  

HKUMed UG students interested in the Undergraduate Research Internship Scheme (URIS) may visit the scheme’s website for more information.