School of Biomedical Sciences
The Chinese University of Hong Kong 香港中文大學

Immunotherapy is a major pillar of cancer therapy. Immune checkpoint inhibitors activate the cancer-killing T cells that had been suppressed by the cancer cells, leading to tumour shrinkage and improved survival rates. However, most of the liver cancers (hepatocellular carcinoma or HCC) are “cold” or T cell-excluded. A study conducted by Prof Alfred Sze-lok Cheng, Professor of the School of Biomedical Sciences (SBS), and Prof. Ka-fai To, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Anatomical and Cellular Pathology, CUHK uncovered that a cancer-promoting gene called HDAC8 is responsible for maintaining tumours that are immune cell-excluded. Inhibiting HDAC8 can lead to epigenetic reprogramming of the tumour cell and so increase the infiltration of T cells in the tumour (or turn the tumour “hot”).

Further study of the team showed that a new combined immunotherapy using HDAC8 and immune checkpoint inhibitor could protect the mice model, remaining tumour-free in HCC for at least 15 months with no evidence of side effects. The findings have been published in Science Translational Medicine, which can be viewed HERE.

The co-first authors of the paper include Dr. Weiqin Yang, Research Associate of SBS, Dr. Yu Feng, PhD graduate of SBS and Prof. Jingying Zhou, Research Assistant Professor of SBS. The related coverage by the Communications and Public Relations Office, CUHK can be viewed HERE.

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Prof. Alfred Cheng (left) and Prof. Ka-fai To (right)

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The co-first authors of the paper include Dr. Weiqin Yang (1st from left), Dr. Yu Feng (2nd from right) and Prof. Jingying Zhou (1st from right) of SBS