State Key Laboratory of Oncology in South China

The SKL of Oncology in South China was founded in March 2005 by the Ministry of Science and Technology in China, and based on the Key Laboratory of Cancer-related Genes and Anticancer Drugs of the Chinese Ministry of Education. The first laboratory director was academician Zeng Yixin, and the first academic committee director academician Qiang Boqin. Currently, the laboratory director is Professor Xu Ruihua, the director of Sun Yat-sen University Cancer Center, and the academic committee director is academician Zhan Qimin from Peking University Health Science Center.

In 2020, over 100 research projects in the laboratory received funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China. Our scientists have made significant progress in various fields including those at the frontiers of science, including translational medical science, and new strategies for cancer diagnosis and treatment. We published more than 40 papers in high impact academic journals in 2020. The research results have been published in internationally renowned journals such as Nature, Cell Biology, Cell Research, JAMA, and JCO.

This laboratory focuses on the high incidence of cancer disease in southern China, including nasopharyngeal carcinoma, liver cancer, colorectal cancer and breast cancer. Research on tumor prediction, prevention, molecular diagnosis and precision treatment are also carried out. Our scientists are investigating cancer pathogenesis and looking for biomarkers that can be used for the early diagnosis of cancer. They are also investigating target genes that can be used for biotherapy and new target drug development. They make efforts to develop tumor immunotherapy methods and targeted therapeutic drugs; explore the efficacy of new target drugs in clinical research; study tumor molecular classifications, key molecular diagnosis technology and precision treatment. The laboratory is built to be an oncological research platform with international influence, making breakthroughs in the fields of cancer prevention and treatment.

Research Achievements
In terms of cancer etiology and prevention, a series genetic tumor molecular studies have been carried out, and the susceptibility genes of various tumors such as nasopharyngeal carcinoma and colorectal cancer have been identified and their pathogenic mechanisms revealed. In-depth research on the pathogenicity of Epstein-Barr virus infection has also been conducted, identifying high-risk subtypes of tumor-related Epstein-Barr virus and key receptors infecting epithelial cells, providing the theoretical background for tumor screening, vaccine development and cancer prevention. 

Scientists are also investigating better nasopharyngeal carcinoma screening strategies, and have built a nasopharyngeal cancer screening site in the high-risk area which has had continuous follow-up for 30 years. We have optimized and implemented screening strategies based on EB virus IgA antibody detection, significantly improving the rate of early NPC diagnoses. 

In terms of early cancer screening, the laboratory has researched liquid biopsies and artificial intelligence imaging and developed a variety of early tumor diagnosis kits and imaging decision-making systems. In the field of liquid biopsy, a new method for the precise diagnosis and treatment of liver cancer has been developed, which can accurately predict tumor staging, the curative effect and recurrence. To make early screening more accurate, artificial intelligence has been applied to tumor imaging diagnosis. At present, artificial intelligence imaging decision-making systems have been developed for upper gastrointestinal tumors, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer.

In terms of precision treatment, a series of studies on precise tumor molecular classification have been carried out, and the evaluation system of NPC disease severity at the organ level has been continuously improved, and adopted by international clinical staging guidelines. Prognosis prediction models of colorectal cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer and nasopharyngeal cancer have also have been established, with analyses at the molecular level such as gene mutations, methylation and mRNA to try and improve the efficacy of precision medicine and for guiding clinical treatment decision-making. A "dual-target combination" targeted therapy program for advanced lung cancer based on the molecular characteristics of EGFR mutations was also established and comprehensive treatments of NPC, colorectal cancer, liver cancer and breast cancer have been optimized. Efforts have been made to increase the overall survival rate from 6~30%; rewriting international clinical guidelines and promoting our treatment methods worldwide.

In terms of new drug development, a series of new targets have been discovered such as oncogene regulation of cell metabolism, tumor cell redox metabolism, glucose and lipid metabolism, and tumor immune escape. These targets can synthesize or modify a series of corresponding novel small molecule compounds. A series of phase I to III clinical trials under the guidance of molecular markers has been carried out. Additionally, we have promoted 16 original, innovative drugs for cancer treatment.

In terms of basic research, systematic and in-depth research has been explored regarding the heterogeneity of the tumor microenvironment and the development of new targets for immunotherapy, and a variety of new subtypes of immune and mesenchymal cells with cancer-promoting functions discovered, promoting the progress of immunotherapy for malignant tumors. Focusing on abnormal tumor metabolism, in-depth systematic research has also been carried out to reveal the mechanism of dynamic changes in tumor cell mitochondria, and elucidate tumor cell metabolism affected by key metabolic enzymes, new peptides, non-coding RNA and other factors.

Updated November 2021

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