6 April 2020
Meet the husband and wife team of liver cancer researchers giving new meaning to ‘in sickness and in health’.
Dr Haolu Wang and Dr Tina Liang joined GMRF in December 2019 as part of a partnership with the University of Queensland Diamantina Institute. Their combined research efforts could change the future of how we predict, prevent and treat liver cancer.
From using nanotechnology for liver cancer diagnosis, to a novel vaccine to ‘kill’ cancer, Dr Wang and Dr Liang’s arrival marks an exciting new chapter of innovative research at GMRF.
As the fastest increasing cause of cancer mortality in Australia, liver cancer is having a devastating impact on thousands of lives. Dr Wang and Dr Liang are targeting the core of the problem in two key areas.
Stopping the spread of liver cancer
Dr Liang is developing a biopsy model to predict a pa ent’s response to treatment, enabling clinicians to identify the most effective treatment for a particular patient earlier. The model would also reduce side-effects as it would help identify the smallest doses possible with maximum e ect.
Dr Liang is also targeting the spreading of liver cancer known as self-seeding. The potential drug treatment would prevent detatched liver cancer cells from returning to the tumour.
“The concept of ‘self-seeding’ has only been around for about five years, and so far no-one has worked out how to stop the cancer cells shedding and reattaching to the tumour. We believe the way we are targeting self-seeding is promising,” Dr Liang says.
Helping the body fight cancer
The immune system is the body’s protector, but cancer can evade detection. Dr Wang is developing a therapeutic vaccine to help immune cells recognise and kill cancer cells.
“We’re in the early stages of this one, but there have been encouraging results. This treatment would not only kill the cancer cells, it could help prevent a tumour coming back for a decade or beyond,” Dr Wang says.
Dr Wang is also working on another novel theory – that the liver itself may be responsible for tumour growth after traditional treatments.
“Everyone is thinking of treating the tumour cells but not focusing on environmental changes. We think the environment of the liver is very important in tumour growth and we are looking at ways to target this.”