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Academic Staff

Professor TSAO, George Sai Wah 曹世華

Professor TSAO, George Sai Wah 曹世華

  • BSc (CUHK); PhD (U of Lond); CBiol; MIBiol
  • Director, Faculty Core Facility, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine
  • Principle Lecturer
L1-52, Laboratory Block, 21 Sassoon Road, Hong Kong
+852 3917 9227
+852 2817 0857
  • Nasopharyngeal carcinoma
  • Epstein-Barr virus infection
  • Cellular immortalization and tumorigenic transformation
  • Cancer cell biology, cell migration and invasion
  • Cell cycle regulation, mitosis and chromosome instability
  • Preclinical cancer drug testing
  • Patient derived xenografts, organoid cultures, cell line establishment
  • Live cell imaging
  • Ph.D. (Institute of Cancer Research, Royal Marsden Hospital, University of London)
  • B.Sc. (Department of Biology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong)
  • Head (Department of Anatomy, The University of Hong Kong)
  • Assistant Dean (Research) (Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong)
  • Director (Center of Cancer Research, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong)
  • Laboratory Director (Laboratory of Gynecologic Oncology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School)
  • Assistant Professor (Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School)
  • Instructor (Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School)
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School)
  • Lecturer (Department of Anatomy, The Chinese University of Hong Kong)
  • Professor (School of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Hong Kong)
  • Director (Faculty Core Facility for Imaging and Flow Cytometry)
  • 2008-2012: Governing Board member (International Association for Research on Epstein-Barr virus and Associated Diseases)

Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC): NPC is closely associated with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection. We aim to define key molecular events involved in the malignant transformation of nasopharyngeal epithelial cells and the role of EBV infection in NPC pathogenesis. A panel of telomerase-immortalized nasopharyngeal epithelial cell lines has been established as premalignant nasopharyngeal epithelial cell models for EBV infection study. The essential genetic and cellular events involved in transformation of these EBV-infected premalignant nasopharyngeal epithelium are under investigation using state-of-start molecular and cellular platforms.  The functional interactions of EBV-encoded oncogenes and signaling  events driving the malignant transformation of premalignant nasopharyngeal epithelial cells are key directions of investigation.  The oncogenic potential of EBV genes and their effects on cell signaling mechanisms in infected nasopharyngeal epithelial cells leading to deregulation of cell growth, escape from senescence, resistance to apoptosis, invasive properties and other malignant properties are under investigation. 

Latent EBV infection in nasopharyngeal epithelial cells: NPC is closely association with EBV infection.  EBV infection of primary B cells drives their transformation into proliferative lymphoblastoid cell lines.  In contrast, EBV infection of primary nasopharyngeal epithelial cells induce growth arrest.  EBV infection of normal pharyngeal epithelial cells are believed to be lytic in nature contributing to the generation of infectious EBV for transmission in saliva.  In NPC cells, EBV infection is latent in nature.  The establishment of latent infection in nasopharyngeal epithelial cells may represent an early and essential step in NPC pathogenesis.  Using the immortalized nasopharyngeal epithelial cell models and new EBV+ve NPC cell lines established in our laboratory, we are defining the key events involved in the establishment of latent EBV infection in nasopharyngeal epithelial cells.  Elucidation of events leading to latent infection of EBV in nasopharyngeal epithelial cells may reveal novel targets for prevention and treatment of NPC.

Cancer cell invasion: The molecular and cellular events underlying invasion of cancer are investigated using both molecular and live cell imaging techniques. The roles of EBV-encoded genes and EBV infection in modifying the invasive behavior of nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells are under current investigation.

  1. Zhang J, Jia L, Liu T, Yip YL, Tang WC, Lin W, Deng W, Lo KW, You C, Lung ML, Lung HL, Cheung AL, *Tsao SW, Tsang CM. mTORC2-mediated PDHE1α nuclear translocation links EBV-LMP1 reprogrammed glucose metabolism to cancer metastasis in nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Oncogene. 2019 Jun;38(24):4669-4684. doi: 10.1038/s41388-019-0749-y.
  2. Lin W, Yip YL, Jia L, Deng W, Zheng H, Dai W, Ko JMY, Lo KW, Chung GTY, Yip KY, Lee SD, Kwan JS, Zhang J, Liu T, Chan JY, Kwong DL, Lee VH, Nicholls JM, Busson P, Liu X, Chiang AKS, Hui KF, Kwok H, Cheung ST, Cheung YC, Chan CK, Li B, Cheung AL, Hau PM, Zhou Y, Tsang CM, Middeldorp J, Chen H, Lung ML, *Tsao SW. Establishment and characterization of new tumor xenografts and cancer cell lines from EBV-positive nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Nat Commun. 2018 Nov 7;9(1):4663. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-06889-5.
  3. Zhang J, Jia L, Lin W, Yip YL, Lo KW, Lau VM, Zhu D, Tsang CM, Zhou Y, Deng W, Lung HL, Lung ML, Cheung LM, *Tsao SW. Epstein-Barr Virus-Encoded Latent Membrane Protein 1 Upregulates Glucose Transporter 1 Transcription via the mTORC1/NF-κB Signaling Pathways. J Virol. 2017 Feb 28;91(6). pii: e02168-16.
  4. *Tsao SW, Tsang CM, To KF, Lo KW. The role of Epstein-Barr virus in epithelial malignancies. J Pathol. 2015 Jan;235(2):323-33.
  5. Hau PM, Deng W, Jia L, Yang J, Tsurumi T, Chiang AKS, Huen MSY, *Tsao SW. Role of ATM in the Formation of Replication Compartment During Lytic Replication of EBV in Nasopharyngeal Epithelial Cells. J Virol. 2015 Jan;89(1):652-68.
  6. Tsang CM, Yip YL, LO KW, Deng W, To KF, Hau PM, Lau VM, Takada K, Lui Lung ML, Chen H, Zeng M, Middeldorp JM, Cheung AL, *Tsao SW. Cyclin D1 overexpression supports stable EBV infection in nasopharyngeal epithelial cells.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Dec 11;109(50):E3473-82..
  7. Man C, Rosa J, Yip YL, Cheung ALC Kwong YL, Doxsy SJ and *Tsao SW. Id1 overexpression induces tetraploidization and multiple abnormal mitotic phenotypes by modulating aurora A. Mol Biol Cell. 2008 Jun;19(6):2389-401.
  8. Li HM, Zhung ZH, Wang Q, Pang JC, Wang XH, Wong HL, Feng HC, Jin DY, Ling MT, Wong YC, Eliopoulos AG, Young LS, Huang DP, *Tsao SW. Epstein-Barr virus latent membrane protein 1 (LMP1) upregulates Id1 expression in nasopharyngeal epithelial cells. Oncogene. 2004 May 27;23(25):4488-94..
  9. Wang X, Jin DY, Wong HL, Feng H, Wong YC, *Tsao SW. MAD2-induced sensitization to vincristine is associated with mitotic arrest and Raf/Bcl-2 phosphorylation in nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells. Oncogene. 2003 Jan 9;22(1):109-16.
  10. Wang X, Jin DY, Ng RW, Feng H, Wong YC, Cheung AL, *Tsao SW. Significance of MAD2 expression to mitotic checkpoint control in ovarian cancer cells. Cancer Res. 2002 Mar 15;62(6):1662-8.

*corresponding author

CRF grant awarded

  • 2017 Regulation and pathogenic role of latent infection of Epstein-Barr virus in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (Project co-ordinator)

HMRF grant awarded

  • 2017 Preclinical evaluation of therapeutic use of a selective cdk4/6 inhibitor (PD—332991) in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC)

GRF grant awarded (last five years)

  • 2016 Immortalization of nasopharyngeal epithelial cells by the EBV-encoded LMP1.
  • 2014 Regulation of invadopodia formation by the EBV-encoded LMP1 in nasopharyngeal epithelial cells.
  • 2013 Dynamics of EBV episome maintenance in infected nasopharyngeal epithelial cells.
  • 2012 The role of ATM signaling in the lytic replication of Epstein-Barr virus in infected nasopharyngeal epithelial cells.
  • Current Cancer Drug Target
  • PLoS One
  • Research Assistant Professor:
    • Dr. Tsang CM, Anna
  • Postdoctoral fellows:
    • Dr. Yip YL, Elaine
    • Dr. Jia Lin, Jessica
  • Research Students:
    • Mr. Lin Weitao, Victor
    • Mr. Zhang Z, Jimmy
    • Mr. Tang WC, Wilson
    • Mr. Chan Man Hei, Mathew
    • Mr. Xue Zhichao, Susanna

Last update: August 26, 2019