February 28, 2024

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Hong Hong: Reimagining Cancer Care with Stem Cell Tech

Image Credits: HKU, Press Releasev

A collaborative effort between the LKS Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong (HKUMed) and The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has led to a breakthrough in cancer immunotherapy using stem cells to produce human immune cells. This development, detailed in Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy, offers a promising avenue for enhancing the effectiveness of cancer treatment.

Cancer immunotherapy has made significant strides in patient care, yet a persistent challenge lies in sourcing immune cells. Often, immune cells from cancer patients are compromised due to mutations or depletion induced by chemotherapy, rendering them ineffective against cancer cells. Thus, there is a critical need to develop a reliable method for generating immune cells capable of recognising and targeting cancer cells within the body.

Stem cells, with their remarkable self-renewal and differentiation capabilities, present a promising solution as a source of immune cells. However, conventional techniques involving genetic modification, such as lentiviral transduction, raise safety concerns for patient application. To address this, researchers sought to harness the natural process by which the body generates immune cells. By mimicking the growth factor environment of embryonic development, the team aimed to derive immune cells from stem cells without genetic modification.

The research team used human expanded potential stem cells, which offer advantages over induced pluripotent stem cells in terms of differentiation potential. Employing a cocktail of growth factors akin to those found in embryos, the team successfully generated embryonic tissues from stem cells in vitro. Through innovative spatial transcriptomics algorithms, the team analysed gene expression within individual cells, revealing close resemblances to human foetal samples. This breakthrough signifies a significant step towards faithfully replicating the body’s natural immune cell generation process.

Dr Rio Sugimura, Lead Author of the study and Assistant Professor at HKUMed emphasises the potential of this platform to enhance cancer immunotherapy efficacy. The team is actively exploring strategies to further improve cancer-targeting capabilities, focusing initially on liver cancer, a prevalent concern in Hong Kong. The ultimate goal is the large-scale production of immune cells, including the induction of chimeric antigen receptors (CAR-T cells), for use in cancer treatment across various types of cancer.

Dr. Sugimura led the multidisciplinary research team, which included PhD candidates and researchers from HKUMed and HKUST, along with collaborators from the University of Pittsburgh, United States. The research received support from various funding sources, including the Research Grants Council, the School of Biomedical Sciences at HKUMed, the Innovation and Technology Commission of the HKSAR Government, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in the United States.

The successful establishment of a robust platform for generating functional immune cells from human-expanded potential stem cells represents a significant advancement in cancer immunotherapy. This breakthrough holds promise for improving patient outcomes and addressing challenges associated with immune cell sourcing in cancer treatment. The team’s ongoing efforts aim to translate this research into clinical practice, offering new avenues for cancer treatment and patient care.

The development aligns with the HKSAR Government’s goals of fostering innovation in the healthcare and biotechnology sectors. By supporting cutting-edge research and technology like stem cell-based cancer immunotherapy, the government aims to enhance healthcare standards, promote economic growth, and position Hong Kong as a global hub for biomedical innovation and excellence.

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Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.

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CTC Global Singapore, a premier end-to-end IT solutions provider, is a fully owned subsidiary of ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation (CTC) and ITOCHU Corporation.

Since 1972, CTC has established itself as one of the country’s top IT solutions providers. With 50 years of experience, headed by an experienced management team and staffed by over 200 qualified IT professionals, we support organizations with integrated IT solutions expertise in Autonomous IT, Cyber Security, Digital Transformation, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

Well-known for our strengths in system integration and consultation, CTC Global proves to be the preferred IT outsourcing destination for organizations all over Singapore today.

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Planview has one mission: to build the future of connected work. Our solutions enable organizations to connect the business from ideas to impact, empowering companies to accelerate the achievement of what matters most. Planview’s full spectrum of Portfolio Management and Work Management solutions creates an organizational focus on the strategic outcomes that matter and empowers teams to deliver their best work, no matter how they work. The comprehensive Planview platform and enterprise success model enables customers to deliver innovative, competitive products, services, and customer experiences. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with locations around the world, Planview has more than 1,300 employees supporting 4,500 customers and 2.6 million users worldwide. For more information, visit www.planview.com.

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SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

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HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 

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IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.

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