Research Projects
The Study of Hepatocellular Carcinoma: Role of Extracellular Vesicles in the Tumour Microenvironment

Programme(s) to which this project applies:

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

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a primary malignancy of liver and develops preponderantly in individuals with underlying chronic liver disease. HCC is an aggressive tumour with local invasion and extrahepatic metastasis as signatures in the advanced stage. Patients with an advanced HCC stage are precluded from curative treatment and are limited to only palliative therapy. This stresses the clinical importance in the identification of sensitive and specific biomarkers for early detection of HCC and ascertaining the underlying basis of cancer metastasis of HCC. Our team focuses on the study of liver cancer, particularly the process of metastasis. Using multidisciplinary approaches, we endeavoured to understand the mechanistic basis of HCC metastasis with translational impact leading to improved health, well-being and quality of life for cancer patients.

Metastasis to specific organs is not a random process but results from the interplay between intrinsic properties of cancer cells and microenvironment of the distant organ. Extracellular vesicle (EV) shedding from tumour cells has emerged as an important channel for cell-cell communication in influencing the local tumour microenvironment and facilitating pre-metastatic niche formation in distant organ sites. They contain distinct components which depend on the cell type from which they are released and can subsequently be transferred to the recipient cells. EV content is regarded as a fingerprint of the releasing cells; it provides insightful information about the origin and functions of releasing cells. Circulating EV of cancer patients may therefore serve as promising biomarker for early detection and prognosis. We are interested to understand the molecular basis of EV-driven HCC metastasis by dissecting the functional role and signalling cascades of EV content. In clinical perspective, our work aims to identify promising EV content for the early diagnosis and novel therapeutic interventions for cancer patients.

About the Supervisor

Dr JWP Yam, Department of Pathology

Laboratory Homepage

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