Research Projects
A Pharmacogenomics Study to Identify Predictive Biomarkers for Immune-Mediated Toxicity


Programme(s) to which this project applies:

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

The hypothesis of this study is to identify mutations or variations of gene (s) mutations that may increase toxicity to immune checkpoint inhibitors. 

We will aim to perform whole-exome sequencing on patients with severe, potentially life-threatening toxicities from immunotherapy in the first phase. Thus, we aim to identify significant enrichment of novel gene(s) mutation(s) in this cohort that may predispose patients to increased risk of severe toxicity from immune checkpoint inhibitors.

About the Supervisor

Dr A El Helali, Department of Clinical Oncology

Dr Aya El Helali is a clinician scientist that has recently joined the Department of Clinical Oncology at the University of Hong Kong. She was conferred the MB BCh BAO designation from the National University of Ireland Galway in 2008 and graduated with a first-class honours and gold medals in the fields of Medicine and Surgery. She was awarded the Sir Allen McClay Clinical Research Fellowship at the Stratified Medicine Group and conferred a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) by Queen’s University Belfast in 2018. Her PhD focused on the area of stress activated kinase, tumour angiogenesis and biomarker development. She obtained her specialist Medical Oncology qualification in 2018.

Dr Aya El Helali has extensive experience in translational research and has been involved in investigating the distinct gastric cancer subtypes and their underlying molecular characteristics that may have implications on checkpoint inhibitor response, to deliver robust predictive biomarkers for immunotherapy response. Dr Aya El Helali research interests include understanding innate and adaptive immunity in solid cancers and adopting a personalised approach to identify novel drug combinations by integrating patient genomic data, thereby streamlining novel personalized therapeutics into clinical use by designing biomarker stratified phase I/II clinical trials. 

Biography
ahelali@hku.hk

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 rpgmed@hku.hk.