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Liangliang Hao, PhD

Faculty Starter Grant in Translational Medicine, 2023 Boston University

A New Noninvasive Test for Monitoring Cancer Treatment Response


Immunotherapies that use a person’s own immune system to fight tumors have revolutionized the way we treat cancer. One promising immunotherapy strategy is a class of drugs called bispecific T cell engager (BiTE) antibodies, which make use of a patient’s T cells to help destroy cancer cells. However, this method is limited by difficulties in determining early on whether the treatment is working.

In this study, we propose a novel monitoring test to predict how well the tumors are responding to BiTE treatment. This test will measure the activity of tumor-producing proteases, enzymes that are involved in many processes of cancer progression. During treatment, proteases shed specific sequences of DNA that are excreted in urine. By analyzing these DNA “barcodes,” we can predict treatment efficacy or resistance to therapy. This test would be convenient and noninvasive, with a simple urine sample on a paper-based system similar to home pregnancy tests. This test could bring sophisticated cancer monitoring to under-resourced areas at low cost.

The PhRMA Foundation Faculty Starter Grant in Translational Medicine provides tremendous support for me to hit the ground running during my early independence. This award will help my lab develop noninvasive diagnostics for disease detection and treatment monitoring at the point of care, and ultimately make precision health care accessible for cancer patients.

Liangliang Hao