Two studies led by professors in the Faculty of Medicine at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) are among the ten most “Notable Articles of 2017” selected by a top medical journal, The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). These two papers are also the only studies on the list that are led by researchers based in Asia.

Two CUHK research papers selected as “Most Notable” in 2017 by NEJM

NEJM is the world’s leading medical journal which receives an average of 5,000 research submissions each year and publishes only the top 5%. From among all papers published in 2017, the editorial board has picked ten papers which they found the most meaningful in improving medical practice and patient care to the world. Only two of the ten listed studies are led by Asia scholars and both of them are from CUHK Medicine.

The first selected CUHK paper is “Osimertinib or Platinum–Pemetrexed in EGFR T790M–Positive Lung Cancer”, a multinational study led by Prof Tony Mok, which transformed the practice of lung cancer treatment and marked a new milestone in personalised medicine development for lung cancer.

The study suggests that for patients whose cancer genes further mutate and develop resistance after first-line epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) targeted therapy, a new treatment can double the progression-free survival when compared with standard chemotherapy.

Prof Tony Mok, Li Shu Fan Medical Foundation Professor of Clinical Oncology and Chairman of the Department of Clinical Oncology at CUHK Medicine remarked, “From now on, lung adenocarcinoma patients need to be continuously monitored on how the cancer ‘evolves’ in their bodies. Once the disease progresses in first-line treatment, further mutation tests should be considered to customise the treatment. I and my research team are deeply encouraged to learn that NEJM editors found our study meaningful in improving medical practice and patient care. We will continue to strive to further our contribution to lung cancer treatment.”

The other selected paper is “Analysis of Plasma Epstein–Barr Virus DNA to Screen for Nasopharyngeal Cancer” led by Prof Allen Chan and Prof Dennis Lo. This is a landmark study on over 20,000 people which demonstrated that plasma Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) DNA analysis is useful for screening early asymptomatic nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC).

Prof Allen Chan, Professor, Department of Chemical Pathology at CUHK Medicine, felt grateful about the NEJM selection, “This recognition given by NEJM editors is very significant and meaningful to us. By using this non-invasive DNA screening technology, NPC patients can be identified at significantly earlier stages, when there is a much greater likelihood of successful treatment. We sincerely hope our study can help NPC patients to receive more timely and effective treatments.”

Prof Dennis Lo, Director of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Health Sciences and Chairman of the Department of Chemical Pathology at CUHK Medicine, world-renowned for his discovery of the presence of cell-free fetal DNA in maternal plasma, has been working to apply circulating DNA analysis for screening early cancers. He said, “We are honoured to have our study published in NEJM and chosen as one of the Journal’s most notable articles of the year. This study has demonstrated the potential of circulating DNA analysis for screening early NPC. We will continue to develop this technology to develop screening tests for other types of cancer, and to benefit more people.” MIMS

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