Scholar wins award for cancer breakthroughs

15 November 2018

Professor Jun Yu ( Croucher Senior Research Fellowship 2016), of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), has received a 2018 Scientific and Technological Progress Prize (Medicine) from the Ho Leung Ho Lee Foundation for her contributions to the community of Chinese scientists and innovators.

Yu’s research has significantly improved understanding of the pathogenesis, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of lesions in the digestive system and liver.

She was one of just seven scholars to receive an award in the medicine category at a ceremony held at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, Beijing, on November 6, 2018. The Scientific and Technological Progress Prize recognises outstanding and innovative Chinese academics.

Since 2005, Yu has researched digestive system and liver lesions, and mechanisms behind tumour formation, in order to find effective ways to detect, prevent, and treat gastrointestinal and liver cancers. These are the most common types of cancers among Chinese populations, accounting for 40 per cent of cancer cases in Hong Kong.

She has discovered more than 30 genes that suppress stomach cancer and identified novel biomarkers for non-invasive diagnosis. Through integrated genome sequencing, she revealed the genomic and epigenomic alterations in Epstein-Barr virus-associated stomach cancer and revealed the mutational landscape of colorectal cancer in Chinese populations, including new fusion genes and high-frequency mutated genes. From these breakthroughs, she developed non-invasive diagnoses of these cancers, using blood and faeces testing.

Yu has recently discovered an essential oncogene in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease-associated hepatocellular carcinoma (NAFLD-HCC) and identified an inhibitor, the antifungal medicine Terbinafine, which effectively suppresses cell proliferation in NAFLD-HCC cell lines, and cancer formation. This has provided new directions for the prevention and treatment of this disease.

Yu expressed her profound gratitude to the Hong Kong-based Ho Leung Ho Lee Foundation for the award. “I am honoured to receive this distinction,” she said. “It recognises our team’s research efforts over the past years. We will continue to seek scientific advancement and to conduct more research of high quality in order to transform research results into clinical applications and, most importantly, to improve medical standards and provide patients with better treatment.”

Professor Jun Yu completed her MD and PhD at Tongji Medical University before embarking on gastrointestinal specialist studies at Beijing University in 1994, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Gastroenterology, University of Dresden, Germany; University of Magdeburg, Germany; and CUHK, Hong Kong, between 1998 and 2002. She worked as a Senior Research Officer at University of Sydney from 2003 to 2005. She has been a CUHK faculty member since 2005 and is currently professor in the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, director of the Research Laboratory of Institute of Digestive Disease, and associate director of the State Key Laboratory of Digestive Disease, CUHK.

To view Professor Yu’s Croucher profile, please click here.