Dr Wai Liu is a Research Fellow at St George's. His work focuses on developing novel approaches against cancer. These involve modifications to drug regimens as a way of enhancing the overall activity of chemotherapy.
His current projects include:
- Investigating the immune-modifying effects of chemotherapy
- Cannabinoids and their potential anti-cancer properties
- The IMiDs in combination with other treatment modalities such as artemisinins and mycobacteria as anti-cancer agents
- The anticancer effects of naltrexone
Dr Liu's work has focused on developing new approaches to tackling cancer. Two main themes include developing new treatment strategies for pre-existing drugs that exploit unique combination regimens, and identifying and exploiting anticancer compounds. This approach has led to a number of successful areas of research. These include the following:
The immune-modulatory effects of common chemotherapy such as gemcitabine and oxaliplatin
Dr Liu has been interested in how drugs alter immune responses. More importantly, he has shown how tumours treated with certain drugs respond by communicating in different ways with cells of the immune system. Tumour cells are able to produce bioactive substances that impact upon dendritic cell and T-cell responses, and Dr Liu has shown that chemotherapies can negate these pro-cancerous effects. These works have resulted in several publications and also inspired a PhD studentship.
The use of artemisinins in combination with chemotherapy as a form of cancer treatment
The antimalarial class of drugs called the artemisinins possess anticancer properties by dint of their interactions on the cell cycle. Dr Liu has shown that compounds from this class of chemical can work much better when either combined with pre-existing drugs such as lenalidomide and gemcitabine, or when treatment schedules are altered to include “drug-recovery” phases.
The use of cannabinoids in combination with irradiation as a treatment of brain cancer
Dr Liu has worked on the anticancer properties when he led a small research group at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in 2001. Anecdotal evidence presented to him suggested that cannabis could improve the responses to some therapies in patients with cancer. This lead to a field of work studying the anticancer effects of cannabinoids in a variety of cancer types used both alone and in combination with other treatment modalities.
Dr Liu joined St George’s in 2007, working with Professor Angus Dalgleish investigating the role of the immune modulatory drugs IMiDs as anticancer agents.
Dr Liu obtained his PhD in Medical Oncology and Clinical Pharmacology from St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, and lead small research groups as a research fellow at St Bartholomew’s and at the Institute of Cancer Research.
Liu W, Scott K, Dalgleish A. Supernatants of tumours treated with chemotherapy can alter tumour growth and development in vitro. Anticancer Res 2014. [in press]
Scott K, Dalgleish A, Liu W. The combination of cannabidiol and ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol enhances the anticancer effects of radiation in an orthotopic murine glioma model. Mol Cancer Ther 2014; 13: 2955-67.
Scott K, Shah S, Dalgleish A, Liu W. Enhancing the activity of cannabidiol and other cannabinoids in vitro through modifications to drug combinations and treatment schedules. Anticancer Res 2013; 33: 4373-80.
Liu W, Scott K, Thompson M, Dalgleish A. Dendritic cell phenotype can be improved by certain chemotherapies and is associated with alterations to p21waf1/cip1. Cancer Immunol Immunother 2013; 62: 1553-61.
Liu W, Dalgleish A. Cancer cell derived supernatants that support the carcinogenic process: a future cancer therapy target? Future Oncol 2012, 8: 767-9. [Editorial]
Liu W, Dalgleish A. The potential beneficial effects of drugs on the immune response to vaccination. Semin Oncol 2012, 39: 340-7. [Review]
Liu W, Dennis J, Gravett A, Chanthirakumar C, Kaminska E, Coulton G, Fowler D, Bodman-Smith M, Dalgleish A. Supernatants derived from chemotherapy-treated cancer cell lines can modify angiogenesis. Brit J Cancer 2012; 106: 896-903.
Liu W, Dennis J, Fowler D, Dalgleish A. The gene expression profile of un-stimulated dendritic cells can be used as a predictor of function. Int J Cancer 2012; 130: 979-90.
Liu W, Fowler D, Gravett A, Smith P, Dalgleish A. Supernatants from lymphocytes stimulated with Bacillus Calmette-Guerin can modify the antigenicity of tumours and stimulate allogeneic T-cell responses. Brit J Cancer 2011; 105: 698-93.
Liu W, Gravett A, Dalgleish A. The anti-malarial agent artesunate possesses anti-cancer properties that can be enhanced by combination strategies. Int J Cancer 2011; 128: 1471-80.
Gravett A, Liu W, Krishna S, Chan WC, Haynes R, Wilson N, Dalgleish A. In vitro study of the anti-cancer effects of artemisone alone or in combination with other chemotherapeutic agents. Cancer Chem Pharm 2011; 67: 569-77.
Liu W, Fowler D, Smith P, Dalgleish A. Pre-treatment with chemotherapy can enhance the antigenicity and immunogenicity of tumours by promoting adaptive immune responses. Brit J Cancer 2010; 102: 115-23.
Liu W, Fowler D, Dalgleish A. Cannabis-derived substances in cancer therapy – an emerging anti-inflammatory role for the cannabinoids. Curr Clin Pharmacol 2010; 5: 281-7. [Review]
Liu W, Nizar S, Dalgleish A. Gemcitabine and lenalidomide combination in a patient with metastatic pancreatic cancer – a case study. Med Oncol 2010 27: 430-3.
Liu W, Laux H, Henry J, Bolton T, Dalgleish A, Galustian C. A microarray study of altered gene expression in colorectal cancer cells after treatment with immunomodulatory drugs: Differences in action in vivo and in vitro. Mol Biol Rep 2010; 37: 1801-14.
Powles T, te Poele R, Shamash J Chaplin T, Propper D, Joel S, Oliver T, Liu W. Cannabis induced cytotoxicity in leukaemic cell lines: the role of the cannabinoid receptors and the MAPK pathway. Blood 2005; 105: 1214-21.
Liu W, Powles T, Shamash J, Propper D, Oliver T, Joel S. The effect of haemopoietic growth factors on cancer cell lines and their role in chemosensitivity. Oncogene 2004; 23: 981-90.
Liu W, Oakley P, Joel S. Exposure to low concentration of etoposide reduces the apoptotic capability of leukaemic cell lines. Leukemia 2002; 16: 1705-12.
Dr Katherine Scott, Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Cannabinoid and glioma project
Dr N. Ioannou and Prof H. Modjtahedi – Kingston University
Dr V. Ferro – University of Strathclyde
Celgene Corporation, USA (with Prof Dalgleish). “Investigating the value of combining immunomodulatory drugs with anti-malarial agents”. Ongoing: £100,000 per year
GWPharma, UK. “Investigating the activity of cannabinoids in combination with radiotherapy in glioma and leukaemia”. 2012-2015: £284,000
Dr Liu provides lectures on the relationship between the cell cycle and development of cancer on a variety of BSc and MSc courses at St George’s and King’s College London.