The conquest of cancer has been a longstanding aspiration of humanity and a focal point of scientific exploration worldwide. In recent years, the rapid development and widespread application of biotechnology have led to numerous breakthroughs in the field of cancer medicine.
Molecular medicine, in particular, has become one of the most crucial means in the fight against tumors, aiding in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases by providing a greater understanding of activities and mechanisms at the molecular level.
Dr. Tan Weihong, a prominent scientist in the field of molecular medicine and an Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has dedicated his career to bioanalytical chemistry and chemical biology. His extensive work in nucleic acid aptamers, molecular recognition, and nano-biosensing, among other areas, has been instrumental in advancing research discoveries and clinical applications in oncology.
Dr. Tan Weihong delivered a keynote speech at the 18th International Conference on Genomics (ICG-18).
Dr. Tan acknowledges the challenges in diagnosing and treating cancer. Though eradicating the disease entirely may be unattainable for now, he emphasizes that through scientific research, improvements can be made in patient diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. "Over the past few decades, the 5-year survival rate for cancer patients has significantly increased due to the combined efforts of scientists around the world, with the rate for some cancers reaching over 95%. Today, we need to fearlessly understand the complexity of cancer and encourage scientists to delve deeper into the causes of cancer to help find better diagnostic and treatment strategies," Dr. Tan said.
To advance research in the field of cancer molecular medicine, in December 2020, the Hangzhou Institute of Medicine at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, where Dr. Tan serves as the director, collaborated with BGI Group to establish the "Hangzhou Institute of Medicine-BGI Joint Laboratory." This initiative leverages the strengths of both parties to promote the development of precision medicine through cutting-edge technology applications and tumor research.
Since its inception, the joint laboratory has developed an extensive omics research infrastructure and platform that encompasses spatial and single-cell omics, DNA sequencing, proteomic analysis, and regenerative medicine. By integrating the initial work carried out by Dr. Tan's team in functional nucleic acids and molecular medicine with BGI's proprietary spatial and single-cell omics technologies, the partnership concentrates on pivotal scientific inquiries in the realm of precision medicine and is directed by the practical requirements of clinical applications, ensuring that the research remains close to patient care and treatment outcomes.
Dr. Tan believes the key to cancer molecular medicine lies in gaining a new perspective to deepen our understanding of diseases, which will improve our comprehension of cancer's complexity and, consequently, provide a basis for precision treatments. "Previously, we spoke of cancer spreading from one location to another without understanding the process. Now, with BGI's technology, we can study the molecular-level interactions between cells, creating a comprehensive molecular map of tumor cells and gaining a clearer, more complete picture of the disease's metastatic process," Dr. Tan explained.
For instance, BGI's spatial omics technology, Stereo-seq, with its large field of view and ultra-high precision, allows researchers to decipher cellular and molecular changes in diseases over time and space, including the dynamic changes in the tumor microenvironment and identifying different cell types within tumor tissues. This technology enables researchers to understand the full picture of diseases with unprecedented accuracy.
Since the collaboration, the teams have focused on a series of scientific questions regarding the onset, progression, and evolution of cancer and other diseases, with specific projects designed around gastrointestinal tumors like gastric cancer, and female cancers such as ovarian and breast cancer. These projects aim to uncover the origins and evolution of crucial biological mechanisms through early cancer screening and to address issues of effectiveness, resistance, and metastasis in clinical treatments.
Dr. Wu Kui, Director of the Cancer Research Center at BGI-Research, shared, "By implementing these research projects, we hope to deepen our understanding of the molecular and cellular mechanisms of these major diseases, providing a foundation for the future development and promotion of more intelligent and effective diagnostic methods and treatment strategies."
Addressing cancer's diagnostic and treatment complexities calls for ongoing investigation by experts across a diverse array of scientific domains. Similarly, Dr. Tan looks to the Hangzhou Institute of Medicine-BGI Joint Laboratory to make significant strides in the comprehension and detection of diseases. Through collaborative efforts with a range of partners, this endeavor is poised to make a meaningful impact, paving the way for the emergence of genuine precision medicine.