Inflammation and Epithelial Plasticity


VOON, Dominic Chih Cheng

Associate Professor
VOON, Dominic Chih Cheng

Aims and the Projects We are interested in the relationship between inflammation and epithelial plasticity in the gastrointestinal tissue microenvironment, especially in their contribution to tumorigenesis. Specifically, we aim to study the role of epithelial-derived cytokines in gastrointestinal immunity, inflammation and cancer, through a combination of biochemical, immunological and genetics approaches. During this, we will measure changes in epithelial biology under inflammatory conditions, especially increases in phenotypic plasticity. Through these studies, we aim to gain insights on how to manage and interrupt the chronic inflammation that is a major driver of gastrointestinal cancers.

Inflammation is a double-edge sword.
Acute inflammation is a precisely coordinated process with a clear end-point. During this, the tissue microenvironment is conferred greater tolerance as immune cells are recruited for the eradication of pathogens. The timely conclusion of this process is dependent on a switch from pro- to anti-inflammatory signaling. Persistent infection, somatic gene mutations and imbalance of cytokines will result in chronic inflammation, which is damaging and tumorigenic. For this reason, chronic atrophic gastritis caused by Helicobacter pylori infection is the single greatest risk to human stomach cancer.