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Public Lecture: Natural Killers for Liver Cancer

18 Nov 2013

A Public Lecture titled Nature Killers for Liver Cancer was delivered by Prof Salim Khakoo from the University of Southampton on 15 Nov 2013 in the International Medical University (IMU). The Public Lecture was jointly organised by the Institute for Research, Development and Innovation (IRDI), IMU and British High Commission. A total of 52 participants turned up for this Public Lecture among whom 43 were faculty members and postgraduate students from IMU, three were researchers from the University of Southampton, and five were external participants from University Putra Malaysia (UPM), Monash University, University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), and Cancer Research Initiatives Foundation (CARIF). Prof Salim Khakoo is currently Professor of Hepatology and the Director of Biomedical Research (Institute for Life Sciences), University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom. Prof Khakoo was previously working at Imperial College, London, Stanford University, USA, and The Royal Free Hospital, London. Prompted by his particular interest in viral hepatitis and hepatocellular carcinoma, Prof Khakoo continued to work as a consultant hepatologist and see patients with all types of liver disease. Prof Khakoo was a Wellcome Trust Senior Clinical Research Fellow from 2005-2011 and MRC Clinician Scientist from 2001-2005.


Driven by his main research interest in chronic liver disease and immunology, he leads an active research group studying viral hepatitis, hepatocellular carcinoma, and the innate immune system. He has a specific interest in natural killer (NK) cells which are important components of the innate immune response to viruses and cancers. He has received funding for his research from The Medical Research Council, The Wellcome Trust, The British Liver Trust, The NIH (USA), The Cancer Research Institute (USA) and The Dana Foundation (USA). In his lecture, Dr Khakoo highlighted some of his key research findings, which include the following:

  1. The identification of NK cells as key components in the immune response to HCV (published in Hepatology and Gastroenterology)
  2. The identification of MHC Class 1 bound peptides as a novel control mechanism for NK cells (two manuscripts in PNAS). Discovery of the rapid evolution of NK cell receptors (published in Immunity).
  3. The discovery of an association between inhibitory killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIR) and the outcome of HCV infection, which was published in Science.

The Public Lecture aimed to update researchers on the new development in liver cancer research, especially with regards to the roles of natural killer cells. Besides that, this workshop also served as a platform to explore opportunities for research collaboration between Prof. Khakoo and scientists in Malaysia in the area of hepatology, particularly liver cancer and hepatitis. Liver cancer is one of the commonest cancers worldwide. Natural Killer cells are as part of our body defense system that fight against viral infections such as Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C that may lead on to liver cancer. The liver is full of natural killer cells and recent data suggests that these cells are also important in controlling liver cancer. There is a great potential of using natural killer cells to treat liver cancer patients.

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