Dr. Ruby Huang, Principal Associate at the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore, was recently interviewed live by leading Asian news provider Channel NewsAsia on 13th November 2014. In the segment, Dr. Huang discussed how research conducted in CSI resulted in a novel method to score Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition (EMT) in cancer progression. Led by Dr Ruby Huang and Prof Jean-Paul Thiery, Principal Investigator at CSI Singapore, the findings were published in the prestigious journal EMBO Mol Med on September 2014.
Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition (EMT) is a process by which cancerous epithelial cells, which usually line the surface of body structures, undergo a change in cell type to become mesenchymal cells, which possess migratory abilities. Hence, EMT is a key event in the initiation of cancer metastasis, which occurs when the mesenchymal cancer cells are able to spread from one organ to other secondary sites in the body.
Metastasis is a key indicator for cancer survival, as it is responsible for 90% of deaths from cancer. There have been no existing studies, until now, that offer quantitative measures to assess the interplay between EMT and cancer progression. This study is the first to provide clinicians a quantitative way to identify the likelihood of tumour cell metastasis, by analysis of expression levels of various genes in tumour cells, as well as using other computational methods. EMT scoring has the potential to become a promising, versatile tool for the objective and systematic investigation of EMT roles and dynamics in cancer progression, treatment response and survival.
The team is presently looking into utilising this novel method to enable clinicians to correlate EMT risks to cancer outcomes, by identifying individual patient risk levels and the appropriate treatment drugs for each patient.