Enhancing Capacity in Healthcare

HKU-QIMR Berghofer: Cancer Immunotherapy Research & Advanced Training [2009-2012, 2015-2018]

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ZeShan Foundation has been supporting cutting-edge cancer research and training in a collaboration between Australia's Queensland Berghofer Medical Research Institute (QIMR Berghofer) and Hong Kong's Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong. The knowledge and technology transfer will give Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma patients in Hong Kong and Australia access to ground-breaking cancer treatment, as well as provide training for Hong Kong post-doctoral fellows so as to build up local capacity in cancer research and treatment.
 


"Heal Thyself": Immunotherapy for "Cantonese tumor"
The cancer research targets Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma (NPC 鼻咽癌), an aggressive upper respiratory tract cancer common in East Asia. In fact, it is so prevalent in Southern China that it is nicknamed "Cantonese tumor" (廣東瘤) - it is the 6th most common cancer for Hong Kong males.

The research is on immunotherapy (免疫注射療法)a cell-based treatment that prepares a patient's own immune system to fight the cancer. In this case, scientists extract killer T-cells - a type of white blood cell which some call the "cancer assassin" - and prime them in the laboratory. The cells are then infused back into a patient's body. The "trained" cells now target and attack malignant cells - in this case those infected by the Epstein-Barr (EBV) virus in NPC tumour cells - while leaving normal ones intact. 

It is hoped that the immunotherapy, as compared to standard treatment such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy, will be more effective in treating NPC, and at the same time avoid serious side effects such as deafness and loss in sense of taste. While immunotherapy is a relatively new form of treatment, experts -- such as Prof. Roy Herbst, chief of medical oncology at Yale Cancer Centre in the US, imedia interviews in June 2015 -- have expressed hopes that it could potentially replace chemotherapy as the standard cancer treatment within five years.


Phase I Clinical Trial (2009-2012)
In 2008, ZeShan first supported the first phase clinical trial of the research. The trial took place from 2009 to 2012, recruiting 30 late-stage NPC patients from Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong. The results were very encouraging - not only was the therapy demonstrated safe, it improved life expectancy with overall survival rate of 523 days - compared to 220 days for patients who did not receive the treatment.


Phase II Clinical Trial & Post-Doctoral Fellowship (2015-2018)
In 2015, ZeShan renewed its commitment by supporting the second phase clinical trial. The trial, beginning in September 2015 and expected to complete in 2018, offers immunotherapy to another 30 patients - this time to patients in earlier stages of NPC in both Hong Kong and Australia. Patients will be given up to 6 killer T-cell infusions over 12 weeks, and will be monitored and given standard treatment if their disease progresses.

The collaboration also includes a four-month advanced training for Hong Kong post-doctoral fellows to master scientific techniques of producing clinical grade killer T-cells, so as to lay solid groundwork for developing local talent in research and clinical care. The training will be conducted at QIMR 
Berghofer's manufacturing facility, Q-Gen Cell Therapeutics. The facility is the first in Australia to be granted regulatory approval by the country's Therapeutic Goods Administration to prepare clinical grade T-cell therapies. It is hoped that Hong Kong could eventually set up its very own accredited laboratory, so that the city can prepare its own T-cells instead of having them transported between Australia and Hong Kong


MOU Signing Ceremony
On August 28, 2015, the two institutes signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on a collaboration over cutting-edge cancer research and training, supported by ZeShan Foundation. The ceremony was attended by His Excellency the Governor of Queensland, the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC, among other guests. Mr. Roy Chen, Director of ZeShan, delivered a speech on behalf of the foundation.
 At ZeShan, our philosophy of giving has 
always been underpinned by three guiding 
principles: Strategic Philanthropy, Lasting Impact, and Effective Partnership. We have seen all three come together wonderfully in this project. By supporting cutting-edge research by two leading medical research institutions, we hope to help create maximum impact with our funding.”  
——Mr. Roy Chen, Director, ZeShan Foundation
 

Learn more about Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma and immunotherapy:
 

Learn more about QIMR Berghofer's immunotherapy                                          See how killer T-cells hunt down and eliminate cancer 
 research in this 2012 ABC news report.                                                                  cells in this video by Cambridge University.
 
Image: PET Scan nasopharynx carcinoma by Sanko (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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ZeShan Foundation is committed to protecting your privacy. Personal information including names, mailing addresses, e-mail addresses, etc. submitted through this website will only be used to contact you in regard to ZeShan Foundation's activities and news. We will not distribute or sell your personal information to any outside individuals or organizations. Your personal data will not be used for any other purposes without your consent unless such use is required by law.

If you have any questions, please contact us.

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This website is the property of ZeShan Foundation. The information on the website is meant for reference only. ZeShan Foundation does not warrant or represent that the information provided here is complete, nor that the information is up to date.

The site may contain links to third-party websites. These third-party websites are beyond the control of the Foundation and the Foundation does not accept any responsibility, nor endorse explicitly, the content of these websites or for any transactions that you may make on these websites.

ZeShan Foundation is not responsible for any damage, loss or corruption of data that may occur while viewing or using any material from this website.

If you have any questions, please contact us.