Dr Liming Gui

"I am exploring the feasibility that the factors that are essential to early-stage embryogenesis play key roles in cancerous processes."

Who are you?

I am a Research fellow in the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute. I took up this new job in October 2013.

Current research

In 1875, Julius Cohnheim introduced a theory that the "tumour is a fault or irregularity of the embryonic rudiment," a theme reiterated by Pierce et al in 1978 who suggested that "Cancer is a problem of developmental biology". The emerging evidence shows that there are indeed close parallels between the molecular mechanism of embryogenesis and tumorigenesis. Based on my working experience in oocyte-based biology and cancer research, my current research projects are: 1) to define the potential roles of the candidate factors that are essential to early-stage embryogenesis in cancerous processes; and 2) to explore the feasibility to transdifferentiate tumour cells via targeting these factors.

How does your work relate to cancer stem cells?

It is too early to tell how my research work relates to cancer stem cells at this stage.

What do you think cancer stem cells are?

The presence of normal, organ-specific stem cells in adult tissues has been clearly demonstrated. However, direct experiments to distinguish CSCs remain to be performed. It is envisaged that CSCs carry some properties of their normal counterparts.  Normal stem cells have the capacity to proliferate and differentiate into all the lineages of a given tissue. CSCs are therefore very likely cells in tumour tissues that have the ability to regenerate the phenotypic heterogeneity of the original tumour.

Applications of research

I believe that understanding the regulatory mechanism in cancer is an essential step towards the area of targeted therapeutic intervention. The findings to be obtained from my current project will not be of immediate significance in clinical application but I hope that in the future these findings could be validated and there may subsequently be scope for applying these findings to design new agents or form a basis for combinational recipes to maximise the efficacy of cancer treatments in the clinic.  

What are you doing today?

Today I started with my bench work. I also had a meeting with my mentor to discuss my current and future research plan as well as other issues related to my work. At lunch time I attended the ECSCRI "Research-in Progress (RiP)" seminar. Also I read some academic papers and analysed experimental data.

What can you gain from the Institute?

The high quality of academic staff and their support, the dynamic nature of the institute and its proactive approach to research and the very good facilities available create an excellent environment for me to further develop my academic work to a higher standing.

(Interviewer: Sophie Hopkins, final year Biosciences undergraduate student)