Dr YAN Hoi Ning, Helen


Assistant Professor

  • PhD HK


Research Interest

My research work focuses on the molecular pathogenesis of gastrointestinal tract cancers. We are currently establishing cancer and paired normal organoids derived from freshly resected patient’s specimens and building up a “living biobank”. The technique for growing organoids was invented by Lab of Hans Clevers in 2010 and it was named by The Scientist as one of the biggest scientific advancements of 2013. We use this ever-growing 3D organoid culture as a model together with gene transfection and genome-editing via CRISPR/Cas9 to study the functional roles of newly identified tumor driver genes such as RHOA in gastric cancer. Patient-derived cancer organoid culture which represents the entire repertoire of diverse molecular subtypes of gastrointestinal cancer is one of the best platforms for drug sensitivity screening and identification of new candidate drugs for personalized cancer therapy..

Research Grants
  • Research Grant Council- General Research Fund (2016, 2019)
  • Health and Medical Research Fund (2015, 2017)

Student Supervision
  • Yue Siu Kuen Sarah (PhD student): 2016 – Present
  • Or Chung Sze (Mphil student): 2018 – Present
  • Tang Ying Lam William (Year 3 BBMS): Research Internship Scheme - Summer 2017
  • Postgraduate positions are available. Please send email to Dr. Helen Yan yanhelen@hku.hk for more details.

Awards and Honors
  • Research Output Prize, HKU (2019)
  • Faculty Outstanding Research Output Award, HKU (2015, 2017)

Selected Publications

Click here for detail publication list on ORCID

  • Yan HHN#, Siu HC, Ho SL, Yue SSK, Gao Y, Tsui WY, Chan D, Chan AS, Wong JWH, Man AHY, Lee BCH, Chan ASY, Chan AKW, Hui HS, Cheung AKL, Law WL, Lo OSH, Yuen ST, Clevers H, Leung SY#. Organoid cultures of early-onset colorectal cancers reveal distinct and rare genetic profiles. (2020) GUT, doi:10.1136/ gutjnl-2019-320019. #Corresponding author. (Impact factor: 17.943)
  • Chan AS*, Yan HHN*, Leung SY. Breakthrough Moments: Organoid models of cancer. (2019) Cell Stem Cell, 24:839-840. *Equal contribution.(Impact factor: 21.46. Citation:2)
  • Wallaschek N, Niklas C, Pompaiah M, Wiegering A, Germer CT, Kircher S, Brandlein S, Maurus K, Rosenwald A, Yan HHN, Leung SY, Bartfeld S. Establishing pure cancer organoid cultures: identification, selection and verification of cancer phenotypes and genotypes. (2019) J Mol Biol, 15:2884-2893. PMID: 31150736. Impact factor: 5.067.
  • Yan HHN#, Siu HC, Law S, Ho SL, Yue SSK, Tsui WY, Chan D, Chan AS, Ma S, Lam KO, Bartfeld S, Man AHY, Lee BCH, Chan ASY, Wong JWH, Cheng PSW, Chan AKW, Zhang J, Shi J, Fan X, Kwong DLW, Mak TW, Yuen ST, Clevers H, Leung SY#. A comprehensive human gastric cancer organoid biobank captures tumor subtype heterogeneity and enables therapeutic screening. (2018) Cell Stem Cell, 23:882-897. #Corresponding author. (Impact factor: 21.46. Citation: 29)
    • Cell Stem Cell journal ranks 6th out of 193 in the field of Cell Biology in 2018
  • Chan LH, Zhou L, Ng KY, Wong TL, Lee TK, Sharma R, Loong HC, Ching YP, Yuan YF, Xie D, Lo CM, Man K, Artegiani B, Clevers H, Yan HHN, Leung SY, Richard S, Guan XY, Huen MSY and Ma SKY. PRMT6 regulates RAS/RAF binding and MEK/ERK-mediated cancer stemness activities in hepatocellular carcinoma through CRAF methylation. (2018) Cell Reports, 25:690-701. (Impact factor: 7.815. Citation: 2)
  • Zhou J, Li C, Zhao G, Chu H, Wang D, Yan HHN, Poon VK, Wen L, Wong BH, Zhao X, Chiu MC, Yang D, Wang Y, Au-Yeung RKH, Chan IH, Sun S, Chan JF, To KK, Memish ZA, Corman VM, Drosten C, Hung IF, Zhou Y, Leung SY, Yuen KY. Human intestinal tract serves as an alternative infection route for Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus. (2017) Sci Adv, 3: eaao4966. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aao4966. (Impact factor: 12.804. Citation: 19)
  • Yan HHN*, Lai JCW*, Ho SL, Leung WK, Law WL, Lee JFY, Chan AKW, Tsui WY, Chan ASY, Lee BCH, Yue SSK, Man AHY, Clevers H, Yuen ST, Leung SY. RNF43 germline and somatic mutation in serrated neoplasia pathway and its association with BRAF mutation. (2017) GUT, 66:1645-1656. *Equal contribution. (Impact factor: 16.32. Citation: 43)
    • GUT journal ranks 3rd out of 80 in the field of Gastroenterology and Hepatology in 2017
    • Results proof the pathogenicity of RNF43 germline mutation and urge the need to incorporate germline screening of RNF43 mutation in serrated polyposis syndrome as routine clinical practice.
    • Awarded the 2017 Outstanding Research Output Award, Faculty of Medicine, HKU
  • Wang K*, Yuen ST*, Xu JC*, Lee SP*, Yan HHN*, Shi ST, Siu HC, Deng S, Chu KM, Law S, Chan KH, Chan ASY, Tsui WY, Ho SL, Chan AKW, Man JLK, Foglizzo V, Ng MK, Chan AS, Ching YP, Cheng GHW, Xie T, Fernandez J, Li VS W, Clevers H, Rejto PA, Mao M, Leung SY. Whole-genome sequencing and comprehensive molecular profiling identify new driver mutations in gastric cancer. (2014) Nature Genetics, 46:573-82. *Equal contribution. (Impact factor 35.532. Citation: 477)
  • As of May/June 2019, this highly cited paper received enough citations to place it in the top 1% of its academic field based on a highly cited threshold for the field and publication year.

Data from Essential Science Indicators

  • Awarded the 2015 Outstanding Research Output Award, Faculty of Medicine, HKU
  • Nature Genetics ranks 2nd out of 165 in the field of genetics and hereditary
  • Li VS, Yuen ST, Chan TL, Yan HHN, Law WL, Yeung BH, Chan AS, Tsui WY, So S, Chen X, Leung SY. Frequent inactivation of axon guidance molecule RGMA in human colon cancer through genetic and epigenetic mechanisms. (2009) Gastroenterology, 137:176-87. (Impact factor: 12.899. Citation: 27)
  • Yan HHN, Mruk DD, Wong EW, Lee WM, and Cheng CY. An autocrine axis in the testis that coordinates spermiation and blood-testis barrier restructuring during spermatogenesis. (2008) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A., 105:8950-5. (Impact factor: 9.598. Citation: 82)
  • Yan HHN, Mruk DD, Lee WM, and Cheng CY. Blood-testis barrier dynamics are regulated by testosterone and cytokines via their differential effects on the kinetics of protein endocytosis and recycling in Sertoli cells. (2008) FASEB J., 22:1945-59. (Impact factor: 6.791. Citation : 150)
  • Yan HHN and Cheng CY. Laminin α3 forms a complex with β3 and γ3 chains that serves as the ligand for α6β1-integrin at the apical ectoplasmic specialization in adult rat testes. (2006) J. Biol. Chem., 281:17286-17303. (Impact factor: 5.581. Citation: 101)
  • Yan HHN and Cheng CY. Blood-testis barrier dynamics are regulated by an engagement/disengagement mechanism between tight and adherens junctions via peripheral adaptors. (2005) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A., 102: 11722-11727. (Impact factor: 9.598. Citation: 75)