CUHK Medical Research Makes Top Journal's Top List

January 2018

Two studies led by professors in the Faculty of Medicine at CUHK are among the 10 ‘Notable Articles of 2017’ of The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

NEJM is the oldest continuously published medical periodical, and also the most widely read, cited, and influential in the world. It receives an average of 5,000 research submissions each year and publishes only the top 5%.

From among all the papers published in 2017, the editorial board picked 10 papers which they found the most meaningful in improving medical practice and patient care to the world. Only two of the 10 listed studies were led by scholars based in Asia, both of which are from CUHK.

The first notable CUHK article is ‘Osimertinib or Platinum–Pemetrexed in EGFR T790M–Positive Lung Cancer’, a multinational study led by Prof. Tony Mok, Li Shu Fan Medical Foundation Professor of Clinical Oncology and Chairman of the Department of Clinical Oncology. The study transformed the practice of lung cancer treatment and marked a new milestone in personalized 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.

Professor Mok 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 customize the treatment. We will continue to strive to further our contribution to lung cancer treatment.’

The other notable article is ‘Analysis of Plasma Epstein–Barr Virus DNA to Screen for Nasopharyngeal Cancer’ led by Prof. Allen Chan of the Department of Chemical Pathology, and Prof. Dennis Lo, Director of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Health Sciences and Chairman of the Department of Chemical Pathology. 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). Professor Chan felt grateful about the NEJM laurel, ‘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.’

Professor Lo, 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, ‘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.’

There are several other studies led by CUHK medical scholars with notable scientific achievements in 2017. For example, the research of Prof. Francis Chan, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Choh-Ming Li Professor of Medicine and Therapeutics, on the use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in high-risk patients with cardiothrombotic diseases and arthritis after upper gastrointestinal bleeding was published in The Lancet.

Professor Chan said, ‘2017 was a fruitful year for CUHK Faculty of Medicine. I am glad to see many of my colleagues continuing their efforts to translate scientific discoveries into medical advances that benefit societies and patients. We look forward to further scientific advances and achievements in the years ahead.’