Medical Faculty News v25i1

Leading the Way Several of HKUMed’s young scholars have already attracted considerable interest from within the medical community and beyond for their innovative work. 科研先鋒 數位年輕學者憑著他們的創新科研成就, 在香港及海外醫學領域,獲得高度關注及認可。 Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are like weeds: cutting off the heads will not be enough to kill them, the roots must also be pulled out. Dr Stephanie Ma Kwai- yee , Associate Professor of the School of Biomedical Sciences, has been at the forefront in addressing this problem and her success has made her one of top one per cent most-cited scholars in her field from 2010 to 2018, as measured by Essential Science Indicators. Dr Ma’s research interest focuses on identifying novel stemness vulnerabilities in cancer, using the Asian prevalent tumour type, hepatocellular (liver) carcinoma, as a model system. Her work demonstrated the existence of a subpopulation of cells within the liver tumour called CSCs that is associated with the unfavorable outcome of the disease through contributing to tumour recurrence and therapy resistance. And indeed, this special subpopulation of cells is now known to represent an important root of cancer. She and her team subsequently discovered a protein that plays a critical role in therapy resistance and developed an antibody to target the protein in mouse models and patient samples, which was able to reduce the ability of liver cancer cells to initiate tumour growth and self-renew. The antibody has been patented and licensed. Dr Ma believes that targeting cancer stem cells is a new venture for precision medicine in oncology. The current goals of her team are to establish new molecular signatures and markers for predicting occurrence, recurrence and drug resistance, to improve patient stratification and identify actionable targets directed at cancer stemness for precision medicine. Pulling Out the Weeds 34 Feature