Professional Education

  • Doctor of Philosophy, University Of Hong Kong (2011)

Stanford Advisors


All Publications

  • Suppressing N-Myc downstream regulated gene 1 reactivates senescence signaling and inhibits tumor growth in hepatocellular carcinoma. Carcinogenesis Lu, W., Chua, M., So, S. K. 2014; 35 (4): 915-922


    Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the fifth most lethal malignancy worldwide with no curative therapies. To discover potentially novel therapeutic targets for HCC, we previously studied the gene expression profiles of HCC patients and identified that significant upregulation of N-Myc downstream regulated gene 1 (NDRG1) is associated with more aggressive phenotypes and poorer overall survival of HCC patients. In this study, we further used a loss-of-function approach (RNA interference) to understand the role of NDRG1 in hepatocarcinogenesis. We found that suppression of NDRG1 significantly impaired HCC cell growth through inducing extensive cellular senescence of HCC cells both in vitro and in vivo, accompanied by cell cycle arrest at the G1 phase. The observed antitumor effects of NDRG1 suppression were correlated with activation of major senescence-associated signaling pathways, such as upregulation of tumor suppressors p53, p21 and p16, and decreased phosphorylated Rb. To obtain further insights into the clinical significance of NDRG1-modulated senescence in HCC patients, immunohistochemistry staining of 92 cases of HCC patients was done. We found that high NDRG1 expression (n = 66) is associated with low p21 (n = 82; P < 0.001) and low p16 (n = 86; P < 0.001) levels. In conclusion, this study demonstrated that NDRG1 is a potential therapeutic target for HCC because its suppression triggers senescence of HCC cells through activating glycogen synthase kinase-3β-p53 pathway, thereby inhibiting tumor progression.

    View details for DOI 10.1093/carcin/bgt401

    View details for PubMedID 24302615

  • Druggability of Mortalin for Cancer and Neuro-Degenerative Disorders CURRENT PHARMACEUTICAL DESIGN Deocaris, C. C., Lu, W., Kaul, S. C., Wadhwa, R. 2013; 19 (3): 418-429


    Mortalin is a member of Hsp70 family of stress chaperones. It was first identified as a protein involved in the senescence of mouse cells. Genetic studies revealed that there are two mouse mortalin alleles coding for two proteins (mot-1 and mot-2) that differ in only two amino acids in the carboxy-terminus, but have contrasting activities. Whereas mot-1 accelerated senescence, mot-2 extended the lifespan of mouse cells in culture. In human cells, only one kind of mortalin protein has been identified so far and is shown to be functionally equivalent to mouse mot-2. Whereas mortalin is enriched in cancer cells and contributes to carcinogenesis, the old age brain disorders show its deficiency. As we demystify its deux de machina, accumulating evidence reveal that mortalin may be "druggable" bidirectionally to either treat cancer or neuro-degenerative disorders.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000316446800008

    View details for PubMedID 22920904

  • Induction of mutant p53-dependent apoptosis in human hepatocellular carcinoma by targeting stress protein mortalin INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF CANCER Lu, W., Lee, N. P., Kaul, S. C., Lan, F., Poon, R. T., Wadhwa, R., Luk, J. M. 2011; 129 (8): 1806-1814


    Stress protein mortalin (mtHSP70) is highly expressed in cancer cells. It was shown to contribute to carcinogenesis by sequestrating the wild type p53, a key tumor suppressor protein, in the cytoplasm resulting in an abrogation of its transcriptional activation function. We have found that the level of mortalin expression has significant correlation with human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) malignancy and therefore investigated whether it interacts with and influences the activities of mutant p53, frequently associated with HCC development. We have detected mortalin-p53 interactions in liver tumor and five HCC cell lines that harbored mutant p53. The data was in contrast to the normal liver and immortalized normal hepatocytes that lacked mortalin-p53 interaction. Furthermore, we have found that the shRNA-mediated mortalin silencing could induce mutant p53-mediated tumor-specific apoptosis in HCC. Such allotment of apoptotic function to mutant p53 by targeting mortalin-p53 interaction in cancer cells is a promising strategy for HCC therapy.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/ijc.25857

    View details for Web of Science ID 000294224300002

    View details for PubMedID 21165951

  • Mortalin-p53 interaction in cancer cells is stress dependent and constitutes a selective target for cancer therapy CELL DEATH AND DIFFERENTIATION Lu, W., Lee, N. P., Kaul, S. C., Lan, F., Poon, R. T., Wadhwa, R., Luk, J. M. 2011; 18 (6): 1046-1056


    Stress protein mortalin is a multifunctional protein and is highly expressed in cancers. It has been shown to interact with tumor suppressor protein-p53 (both wild and mutant types) and inactivates its transcriptional activation and apoptotic functions in cancer cells. In the present study, we found that, unlike most of the cancer cells, HepG2 hepatoma lacked mortalin-p53 interaction. We demonstrate that the mortalin-p53 interaction exists in cancer cells that are either physiologically stressed (frequently associated with p53 mutations) or treated with stress-inducing chemicals. Targeting mortalin-p53 interaction with either mortalin small hairpin RNA or a chemical or peptide inhibitor could induce p53-mediated tumor cell-specific apoptosis in hepatocellular carcinoma; p53-null hepatoma or normal hepatocytes remain unaffected.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/cdd.2010.177

    View details for Web of Science ID 000290379300013

    View details for PubMedID 21233847

  • Inducible expression of stem cell associated intermediate filament nestin reveals an important role in glioblastoma carcinogenesis INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF CANCER Lu, W. J., Lan, F., He, Q., Lee, A., Tang, C. Z., Dong, L., Lan, B., Ma, X., Wu, J. C., Shen, L. 2011; 128 (2): 343-351


    The intermediate filament nestin is transiently expressed in neural stem/progenitor cells during the development of central nervous system. Recently, increasing evidence has shown that upregulation of nestin is related to malignancy of several cancers, especially glioblastoma. However, the function of nestin in carcinogenesis remains unclear. In this study, we investigated the role of nestin in glioblastoma carcinogenesis by comparing subclones of rat C6 glioblastoma cells that were either high or low for nestin expression. We found that while nestin expression did not influence the in vitro proliferation of glioblastoma cells, subclones characterized by high levels of nestin formed tumors in vivo at significantly faster rates than subclones with low expression. Importantly, C6 subclones that expressed nestin at low levels in vitro were also found to give rise to tumors highly positive for the protein, suggesting that induction of nestin plays an important role in glioblastoma carcinogenesis. Derivation of nestin positive tumors from nestin negative human U87 glioblastoma cells in immunodeficient mice further confirmed that a switch to positive expression of nestin is fundamental to the course of glioblastoma development. Blocking the expression of nestin in glioblastoma tumors via intratumor injection of shRNA significantly slowed tumor growth and volume. These results demonstrated that nestin plays a crucial role in development of glioblastoma and may potentially be targeted for treatment of the disease.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/ijc.25586

    View details for Web of Science ID 000285263100010

    View details for PubMedID 20669222

  • Heat Shock Proteins in Cancer: Signaling Pathways, Tumor Markers and Molecular Targets in Liver Malignancy PROTEIN AND PEPTIDE LETTERS Lu, W. J., Lee, N. P., Fatima, S., Luk, J. M. 2009; 16 (5): 508-516


    Heat shock proteins (HSPs) consist of a large group of proteins with negligible expressions under physiological conditions. Their expressions are highly induced under stress conditions and they are ubiquitously expressed in various tissues and organs. HSPs possess chaperone functions, thus facilitating the correct folding of proteins or peptides. In hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), high expressions of HSPs are demonstrated in liver cancer tissues and are correlated clinically with the severity of tumors and poor outcomes of HCC patients. This property enables them to be used as diagnostic markers for the onset of HCC. Since their expressions are highly expressed in liver cancer conditions, inhibitors or antisense oligonucleotides of HSPs are postulated to serve as potential therapeutics in treating this liver malignancy. In this review, we will first introduce the HSP family and discuss the major signaling pathways involved for the activities of HSPs. In addition, the clinical applications of HSPs in liver cancer in the aspects of diagnosis and therapy will be summarized and discussed.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000265799400009

    View details for PubMedID 19442230

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