National University Cancer Institute, Singapore (NCIS) proudly marks its 15th anniversary on Nov 4, 2023, as a national centre for cancer with the launch of “NCIS Celebrates Life,” a weekend family carnival dedicated to honouring our journey in cancer care and cutting-edge translational research.
Graced by Guest of Honour, Ms Jane Ittogi, “NCIS Celebrates Life” commemorates NCIS’ remarkable journey over the past 15 years, setting new standards of cancer care in Singapore.
The two-day family carnival, held on Nov 4 and 5, 2023, at Suntec City Atrium (Tower 3 & 4), aims to highlight NCIS’ collective achievements, honour our cancer survivors, educate the public on cancer treatment and developments, as well as raise funds to advance cancer research.
Setting New Standards of Cancer Care
“By tracing our own journey as a national centre setting new standards of cancer care, our aim is for NCIS Celebrates Life to inspire hope and raise awareness about the ongoing fight against cancer. It is a reflection of our dedication to advancing cancer research and treatment, propelling us towards a future where every patient finds hope and healing,” said Adjunct Associate Professor Chee Cheng Ean, who took over the helm of NCIS as Executive Director in September 2023.
Through its 15-year history, NCIS has been at the forefront of cancer care in Singapore. Having started out as an oncology department within the National University Hospital more than 30 years ago, NCIS has established itself as a major national specialist centre for cancer under the National University Health System (NUHS).
Today, it is the only public cancer centre in Singapore providing end-to-end care for adults and children in one facility, thus enabling NCIS clinicians to take a multidisciplinary, comprehensive and personalised approach for each cancer patient. Currently, NCIS serves approximately one in three cancer patients within Singapore’s public healthcare system.
Led by a dedicated team of clinician-scientists and clinician-investigators, NCIS is also home to a wide range of clinical trials, running over 200 clinical trials at any given point.
One such trial that taps on the NCIS Cancer Fund, a sub-fund of the NUHS Fund, involves using technology to predict a cancer patient’s response to drug combinations prior to putting him or her through treatment.
Dr. Yong Wei Peng, Associate Director (Research) and Senior Consultant, Department of Haematology-Oncology, NCIS, said this can save up to 70 per cent of patients from unnecessary treatments that have little impact on their cancer. These patients would have undergone multiple cancer treatments previously.
A trial on six patients with advanced gastric cancer demonstrated that testing drug combinations on their cancer cells in the laboratory yielded the same results as that of administering the drugs directly to these patients.
Dr. Yong said: “This outcome highlights the potential of using patient-derived cancer cells to deliver personalised medicine to our patients. This will increase the likelihood of patients getting the right drug combinations while reducing their risk of side effects from treatment.”
The following are some other examples of the pivotal, ground-breaking trials that NCIS has embarked on in recent years:
- In 2022, NCIS launched a quadratic phenotypic optimisation platform (QPOP), an AI-driven platform that identifies patient-specific drug combinations to help doctors make better clinical decisions when treating cancer patients.
- NCIS also developed the Haplo-17 protocol, a new technique that makes haploidentical, or non-full-matched, transplants a feasible treatment option for blood cancer patients who are unable to find perfectly-matched stem cell donors. About 70 per cent of the patients had favourable outcomes, with no remaining signs of cancer or any experience of transplant-related complications like rejection.
- NCIS will be beginning the first-in-human trial for CAR-T cell therapy using cells from healthy donors. One of the most remarkable and promising cancer treatments in recent years, the trial will test new therapy on patients with lymphoma, multiple myeloma, colorectal, lung, liver or ovarian cancer.
Making Cutting-Edge Cancer Care Accessible
In the rapid advancement of cancer science, clinical trials are a beacon of hope.
They represent the epicentre of innovation, rigorously testing novel therapies, devices and treatment approaches. Clinical trials play a pivotal role in accelerating the development of new, more effective cancer treatments.
By participating in these trials, patients gain access to ground-breaking treatments that might otherwise be out of reach due to limited options in standard care. Clinical trials are also tailored to specific cancer types, offering a glimmer of hope for individuals whose conditions may not respond to conventional therapies. This personalised approach holds promise for improved outcomes and quality of life.
A/Prof Chee said: “The NCIS Cancer Fund, with support from industry collaborators, patients and donors, has significantly contributed to cancer research for the last decade. These clinical breakthroughs will lead to better health outcomes for cancer patients in the decades to come.At NCIS, we’re striving for a new era of effective and value-driven cancer care, making it accessible to all. While there’s no one-size-fits-all cure for cancer, having personalised therapies will ensure that NCIS continues setting new standards for cancer care in Singapore.”
The NCIS Cancer Fund also plays a pivotal role in making cancer care more accessible to those in need. This vital financial resource is dedicated to various initiatives aimed at reducing the barriers that patients face when dealing with cancer.
The NCIS Cancer Fund has helped 440 patients with close to $1.8 million since it was set up in 2016. Through the NCIS Celebrates Life carnival and other fund-raising platforms, NCIS seeks to raise $20 million over the next five years.
“At NCIS, we are committed to delivering incredible treatment and the compassionate care every individual affected by cancer deserves. We want to empower our patients and the community to take charge of their health and we do this through robust education campaigns. Fighting cancer is a long journey, and it requires a collective effort from the community and broader society,” A/Prof Chee added.
NCIS Fights Cancer Mobile Game
As part of this mission, NCIS announced the launch of NCIS Fights Cancer, a specially commissioned web-based mobile game to raise funds for NCIS Cancer Fund while educating players on cancer prevention and screening.
In this free web game, players aim to obtain high scores by avoiding obstacles and collecting objects. Players can acquire more game attempts by taking actions such as donating to the NCIS Cancer Fund or sharing a cancer-related health tip. From now to Dec 31, 2023, the top scorers on the leaderboard will stand a chance to win attractive prizes sponsored by Razer, among others. Winners will be announced on the NCIS Facebook and Instagram pages in January 2024.
NCIS Fights Cancer is available for all to play at: www.ncis.com.sg/LetsPlay