2014 Senior Medical Research Fellow: James Lau

19 May 2015

Dr James Lau is a renowned surgeon who is leading multicenter international studies in the advancement of therapeutic endoscopy. His research strengths lie in therapeutic endoscopy of bleeding ulcers, with the aim to reduce the overall rate of re-bleeding as well as mortality of patients.

Lau developed an interest in gastrointestinal diseases after joining Prince of Wales Hospital as a surgeon. Having seen plenty of patients experiencing bleeding problems, he sought to find a more effective method to tackle cases of bleeding ulcers without having to resort to surgery.

“In two decades, we have dramatically reduced the rate of surgery for our patients suffering from bleeding ulcers. This is a good change as surgery sometimes leads to complications, and endoscopic therapy represents a minimally invasive alternative. Also, it is quite gratifying to stop the bleeding in itself.”

In endoscopic therapy, a variety of advanced gadgets and tools are used in the prevention of further bleeding. In some cases, thermal devices are used to compress the arteries. In other cases, titanium clips are fired into the affected region through an endoscope to clip the artery.

Lau’s research under the Croucher Senior Medical Research Fellowship is in collaboration with a leading medical centre in Europe, Erasmus University. The research focus lies in determining the adjunctive role of interventional radiology to endoscopic treatment. After halting the bleeding in patients using endoscopic therapy, through angiography, catheters and coils are placed to prevent further bleeding. In the 90s, the rate of bleeding was brought down to 15%. This new research study has reduced the rate of further bleeding in patient to a mere 4%.

Lau has published several landmark research studies in prestigious medical journals including the New England Journal of Medicine and Lancet. These studies include a comparison between further endoscopic treatment and surgery in the treatment of patients with refractory bleeding, and the use of profound acid suppression before and after endoscopic treatment to prevent recurrent bleeding. His published research has received over 700-800 citations and some of the research outcomes have led to distinct changes in the clinical practice of medicine.

Sharing some of his insight, Lau says that one of the major difficulties in conducting research is the length of time it takes to secure the necessary sample size of patients. There are also different elements that must be attended to before carrying out research, such as coming up with a very good clinical research question and design of study.

I believe it is the clinical research question that is important, the science behind all the clinical trials. Ultimately we need to make sure that the answers we find benefit patients and patient care in general.
James Lau

Lau was awarded the Croucher Senior Medical Research Fellowship in 2014. He is currently Professor of Surgery at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Director to Endoscopy Centre at Prince of Wales Hospital.

To view James Lau's personal Croucher profile, please click here

For more information about Croucher Senior Medical Research Fellowships, please click here.