More than 700,000 people die each year from liver cancer worldwide making it the leading cause of cancer deaths in the world, according to the American Cancer Society. Adding to that, 800,000 people are diagnosed with this cancer, yearly. Mohamed Hussein, a doctoral candidate in the Molecular Medicine program at Augusta University, in the laboratory of Dr Yukai He, is working to find novel therapeutic approaches to treat patients with liver cancer through immunotherapy. According to Mohamed, “Typically, when patients are diagnosed with liver cancer they are not fit for regular cancer treatment, for example chemotherapy or radiation. Most of the time their only hope is a liver transplant.” Mohamed hopes his work will provide important new information that could lead to advances in the treatment of liver cancer.
The research Mohamed has been working on uses the patient’s immune system to target liver cancer by educating T cells to target specific antigens that are presented by liver cancer cells. They use genetic engineering of human T cells to induce the expression of specific receptors that will recognize antigens found on liver tumor cells. When they give these T cells back to the patient, the expectation is that the T cells will recognize the tumor, target it and kill it. The benefit of using the patient’s own T cells is there will be no rejection and there is a fast response. Mohamed said, “If we can get a good anti-tumor response using immunotherapy, it would be a great therapeutic agent and can reduce the gap in treatment.” Dr He adds, “Mohamed is a great observer, paying special attention to details in the lab. He is keen to learn new knowledge in the field of T cell engineering to fight cancers. We are happy to have him in the lab.”
Recently, Mohamed was selected to receive an American Association of Immunologists (AAI) Trainee Abstract Award and present his research entitled, “The Role of c-JUN in Enhancing TCR-T Function in Treatment of Hepatocellular Carcinoma,” in an oral presentation along with a poster presentation at the AAI Virtual Conference in May 2021. According to AAI, “This award provides support to AAI Trainee members (graduate students and postdoctoral fellows) whose first-author abstracts submitted to the AAI annual meeting are selected for oral presentation in Block Symposia.” When discussing the meaning of such an award, Mohamed said, “It is a great honor for me to be recognized for the value of research we are doing here at AU and in the Georgia Cancer Center. As a graduate student, I feel that I am representing the whole graduate school, so it is very honorable for me to feel I’m doing well for myself, my school and my research…”
In addition to the prestigious AAI Trainee Abstract Award, Mohamed also received the Georgia Cancer Center Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Research at The Graduate School 2021 Virtual Graduate Research Day.