Associate Professor

Hon Leong

PhD, University of British Columbia

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
2075 Bayview Ave, Rooms S-18, S-26, S-27, Toronto, Ontario Canada M4N 3M5
Research Interests
Biomedical Imaging, Cancer Diagnosis and Therapy, Cancer Mechanisms and Models, Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine

Administrative Assistant Contact:
Sue Santillo
Phone: 416-480-6100, ext. 3914

At a Glance

  • Mechanisms of cancer metastasis
  • Drug discovery and validation in urogenital malignancies (kidney, prostate, bladder, testicular cancers)
  • Extracellular vesicles and liquid biopsies for improved cancer risk stratification
  • Patient avatars for drug selection in metastatic cancer patients
  • Kidney stone research and drug discovery
  • Male infertility therapy
  • Bladder stents and tissue regeneration

Short Bio

Dr. Leong is a translational urology researcher based at Sunnybrook Hospital. He received his Bachelor of Science at the University of Alberta ('99) and his Master of Science at the University of British Columbia ('03). He then received his Doctor of Philosophy at the University of British Columbia ('08). During that time, he was also an Honorary Fellow at the National Heart and Lung Institute of the Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals in London, UK for two years.

During his Ph.D. training, Dr. Leong was awarded several prestigious awards such as a CIHR studentship in transplantation, a Canadian Blood Services studentship in blood transfusion medicine, the Michael Smith Foundation of Health Research Ph.D. award, and the British Heart Foundation Bursary award. After completing his Ph.D., he shifted to cancer research and was awarded various fellowship awards (CIHR, CBCF), culminating in being the first Canadian recipient of a U.S. Army Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Research Program Fellowship.

In recognition of his pioneering work in translational prostate cancer research, Dr. Leong has received many awards and honors, being awarded the Movember Rising Star Award in 2013 and again in 2016, the only researcher to have been honored twice. He was named Department of Surgery Outstanding Scientist in 2015 at the University of Western Ontario as an Assistant Professor ('14-'16). He was also awarded the New Investigator Award in 2016 by the Kidney Foundation of Canada for his work on kidney stone drug treatments. At Mayo Clinic, Dr. Leong was Director of the Urologic Sciences laboratory ('16-'19).

In addition to his research activities, Dr. Leong is active in education and provides mentorship to many urology residents, clinical fellows, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, with some of these individuals going on to form their own laboratories.

Research Synopsis

Dr. Leong’s mandate is to bring lab-grown ideas to the clinic, with a particular focus on the genitourinary system (kidney, bladder, prostate, testes, urethra, penis). The constant goal is to take concepts developed in the lab and translate them into clinical practice. The group emphasizes multidisciplinary training and collaboration to help trainees become confident and highly skilled scientists.

Dr. Leong is focused on developing “liquid biopsies” that rely on the enumeration of circulating cancer cell fragments, also known as extracellular vesicles, in the blood. Whether they are used to improve early detection for early-stage migration in pancreatic cancer, to avoid overtreatment in breast and prostate cancers, or to improve follow-up and monitoring post-treatment for kidney and colorectal cancers, the goal is to provide a noninvasive companion blood test used in combination with imaging to transform clinical outcomes. We work in collaboration with Drs. Kasia Jerzak, Christopher Lim, Stanley Liu, Laurence Klotz, and Danny Vesprini.

His group also delivers “patient avatars” (patient-derived xenografts) that will help patients select the best therapy during their cancer journey. Their patient-derived xenograft platform allows them to provide pivotal information that will lead to improved response rates in advanced cancer patients. This platform can be used to evaluate chemotherapies, targeted therapies and immunotherapies. We work in collaboration with Drs. Georg Bjarnason, Robert Kerbel, Harvey Wong, and Mark Doherty.

Drug discovery is also a very important research arm, as the group implements various pre-clinical model systems to discover new drugs for various diseases (for example, kidney stones, cancer metastasis, musculoskeletal/cartilage repair).

Recent Publications

  1. Joncas FH, Lucien F, Rouleau M, Morin F, Leong HS, Pouliot F, Fradet Y, Gilbert C, Toren P. Plasma extracellular vesicles as phenotypic biomarkers in prostate cancer patients. Prostate. 2019 Nov;79(15):1767-1776. doi: 10.1002/pros.23901. Epub 2019 Sep 2. PubMed PMID: 31475741.
  2. Kassam Z, Burgers K, Walsh JC, Lee TY, Leong HS, Fisher B. A prospective feasibility study evaluating the role of multimodality imaging and liquid biopsy  for response assessment in locally advanced rectal carcinoma. Abdom Radiol (NY).  2019 Jul 20. doi: 10.1007/s00261-019-02135-8. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID:  31327041.
  3. Leong HS, Butler KS, Brinker CJ, Azzawi M, Conlan S, Dufés C, Owen A, Rannard, S, Scott C, Chen C, Dobrovolskaia MA, Kozlov SV, Prina-Mello A, Schmid R, Wick P, Caputo F, Boisseau P, Crist RM, McNeil SE, Fadeel B, Tran L, Hansen SF, Hartmann  NB, Clausen LPW, Skjolding LM, Baun A, Ågerstrand M, Gu Z, Lamprou DA, Hoskins C, Huang L, Song W, Cao H, Liu X, Jandt KD, Jiang W, Kim BYS, Wheeler KE, Chetwynd AJ, Lynch I, Moghimi SM, Nel A, Xia T, Weiss PS, Sarmento B, das Neves J, Santos  HA, Santos L, Mitragotri S, Little S, Peer D, Amiji MM, Alonso MJ, Petri-Fink A,  Balog S, Lee A, Drasler B, Rothen-Rutishauser B, Wilhelm S, Acar H, Harrison RG, Mao C, Mukherjee P, Ramesh R, McNally LR, Busatto S, Wolfram J, Bergese P, Ferrari M, Fang RH, Zhang L, Zheng J, Peng C, Du B, Yu M, Charron DM, Zheng G, Pastore C. On the issue of transparency and reproducibility in nanomedicine. Nat Nanotechnol. 2019 Jul;14(7):629-635. doi: 10.1038/s41565-019-0496-9. Erratum in: Nat Nanotechnol. 2019 Aug;14(8):811. Nat Nanotechnol. 2019 Sep;14(9):902. PubMed  PMID: 31270452.
  4. Mesci A, Lucien F, Huang X, Wang EH, Shin D, Meringer M, Hoey C, Ray J, Boutros PC, Leong HS, Liu SK. RSPO3 is a prognostic biomarker and mediator of invasiveness in prostate cancer. J Transl Med. 2019 Apr 15;17(1):125. doi: 10.1186/s12967-019-1878-3. PubMed PMID: 30987640; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6466739.
  5. Lucien F, Lac V, Billadeau DD, Borgida A, Gallinger S, Leong HS. Glypican-1 and glycoprotein 2 bearing extracellular vesicles do not discern pancreatic cancer from benign pancreatic diseases. Oncotarget. 2019 Feb 1;10(10):1045-1055.  doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.26620. eCollection 2019 Feb 1. PubMed PMID: 30800217; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6383691.
  6. Krstic M, Kolendowski B, Cecchini MJ, Postenka CO, Hassan HM, Andrews J, MacMillan CD, Williams KC, Leong HS, Brackstone M, Torchia J, Chambers AF, Tuck AB. TBX3 promotes progression of pre-invasive breast cancer cells by inducing EMT and directly up-regulating SLUG. J Pathol. 2019 Jun;248(2):191-203. doi: 10.1002/path.5245. Epub 2019 Apr 8. PubMed PMID: 30697731; PubMed Central PMCID:  PMC6593675.
  7. Padda RS, Deng FK, Brett SI, Biggs CN, Durfee PN, Brinker CJ, Williams KC, Leong HS. Nanoscale flow cytometry to distinguish subpopulations of prostate extracellular vesicles in patient plasma. Prostate. 2019 May;79(6):592-603. doi:  10.1002/pros.23764. Epub 2019 Jan 24. PubMed PMID: 30680751.
  8. Williams KC, Cepeda MA, Javed S, Searle K, Parkins KM, Makela AV, Hamilton AM, Soukhtehzari S, Kim Y, Tuck AB, Ronald JA, Foster PJ, Chambers AF, Leong HS. Invadopodia are chemosensing protrusions that guide cancer cell extravasation to  promote brain tropism in metastasis. Oncogene. 2019 May;38(19):3598-3615. doi: 10.1038/s41388-018-0667-4. Epub 2019 Jan 16. PubMed PMID: 30651600; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6756237.
  9. Lucien F, Leong HS. The role of extracellular vesicles in cancer microenvironment and metastasis: myths and challenges. Biochem Soc Trans. 2019 Feb 28;47(1):273-280. doi: 10.1042/BST20180253. Epub 2019 Jan 15. Review. PubMed  PMID: 30647137.
  10. Gomes J, Lucien F, Cooper TT, Kim Y, Williams KC, Liao X, Kaufman L, Lagugné-Labarthet F, Kenyon O, Boysen J, Kay NE, McIntyre CW, Leong HS. Analytical Considerations in Nanoscale Flow Cytometry of Extracellular Vesicles to Achieve Data Linearity. Thromb Haemost. 2018 Sep;118(9):1612-1624. doi: 10.1055/s-0038-1668544. Epub 2018 Aug 15. PubMed PMID: 30112749.
  11. Ali SN, Dayarathna TK, Ali AN, Osumah T, Ahmed M, Cooper TT, Power NE, Zhang  D, Kim D, Kim R, St Amant A, Hou J, Tailly T, Yang J, Luyt L, Spagnuolo PA, Burton JP, Razvi H, Leong HS. Drosophila melanogaster as a function-based high-throughput screening model for antinephrolithiasis agents in kidney stone patients. Dis Model Mech. 2018 Nov 16;11(11). pii: dmm035873. doi: 10.1242/dmm.035873. PubMed PMID: 30082495; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6262805.
  12. Berish RB, Ali AN, Telmer PG, Ronald JA, Leong HS. Translational models of prostate cancer bone metastasis. Nat Rev Urol. 2018 Jul;15(7):403-421. doi: 10.1038/s41585-018-0020-2. Review. PubMed PMID: 29769644.
  13. Ye Z, Dong H, Li Y, Ma T, Huang H, Leong HS, Eckel-Passow J, Kocher JA, Liang H, Wang L. Prevalent Homozygous Deletions of Type I Interferon and Defensin Genes in Human Cancers Associate with Immunotherapy Resistance. Clin Cancer Res. 2018 Jul 15;24(14):3299-3308. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-17-3008. Epub 2018 Apr 4. PubMed PMID: 29618619; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6050078.
  14. Brett SI, Lucien F, Guo C, Williams KC, Kim Y, Durfee PN, Brinker CJ, Chin JI, Yang J, Leong HS. Immunoaffinity based methods are superior to kits for purification of prostate derived extracellular vesicles from plasma samples. Prostate. 2017 May;77(13):1335-1343. doi: 10.1002/pros.23393. Epub 2017 Aug 1. PubMed PMID: 28762517.
  15. Stender JD, Nwachukwu JC, Kastrati I, Kim Y, Strid T, Yakir M, Srinivasan S,  Nowak J, Izard T, Rangarajan ES, Carlson KE, Katzenellenbogen JA, Yao XQ, Grant BJ, Leong HS, Lin CY, Frasor J, Nettles KW, Glass CK. Structural and Molecular Mechanisms of Cytokine-Mediated Endocrine Resistance in Human Breast Cancer Cells. Mol Cell. 2017 Mar 16;65(6):1122-1135.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2017.02.008. PubMed PMID: 28306507; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5546241.