Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide. In East Asia, one out of three people die of cancer every three minutes. While more treatment modalities are being developed to extend overall survival, few actually succeed to do so. But since 2015, precision medicine has presented a new frontier in revolutionizing cancer care.
At its core, Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) upholds the key premise of transforming cancer into a manageable chronic disease.
The inaugural Asia Pacific Symposium on Precision Oncology which was held at Hotel InterContinental on 8th April was meant to shed light on how NGS can be more effectively implemented into current cancer treatment and practices.
Cancer is a disease of genetic alterations. “In recent years, hundreds of anti-cancer therapies have been designed to attack tumors bearing specific genetic alteration. Genetic testing to profile mutation within tumors thus becomes more critical to strategize targeted therapy, which has seen a surge of interest among cancer patients and healthcare professionals,” said Dr. Shu-Jen Chen, Chief Scientific Officer of ACT Genomics.
Yet, deriving adequate genetic information from cancer samples is no easy task. “The challenge for pathology laboratories is to use reliable methods and processes to ensure that patients and oncologists receive a timely and accurate report on which their treatment plan will be based.” said Dr. Brendan Pang, Consultant in Molecular Pathology, National University Hospital.
Organized by ACT Genomics Singapore and Singapore Society of Pathology, “The symposium themed ‘Integrating NGS into Clinical Oncology: Strategies, Promises and Limitations’ was at the confluence of the diverse interests of the assembly, and aims to have open and constructive discussions, together with the opportunity to crystalize strategies, implications, and limitations among cancer specialists across missions and countries,” said Dr. Allen Lai, Regional Managing Director, ACT Genomics Singapore, and Dr. Lynette Oon, Head of Department of Molecular Pathology, Singapore General Hospital.
Dr Song Ling Poon, medical scientific liaison of ACT Genomics spoke about the role of next generation sequencing in enabling precision medicine. “Precision medicine has been defined as identifying the right drug, for the right patient, at the right dose, at the right time. This concept requires heavy access to information on an individual’s unique genetic characteristics to tailor therapy. Next generation sequencing (NGS) allows multiple genes to be analyzed simultaneously in one run and can provide enough depth of coverage to detect minor allele frequencies in a cost-effective manner. Together with the advancement of computational tools created, NGS has risen to the forefront in tumor analysis, provide opportunity in dissecting and integrating the highly complex and heterogeneous genetic composition of cancer. “
This high-level symposium brought together approximately 30-40 genomics and cancer experts from Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia. A series of didactic, interactive, and cancer-based case sharing sessions was held by two key opinion cancer leaders, Dr. Lin Zhong-Zhe, Senior Medical Oncologist from National Taiwan University Hospital, and Dr. David Tan, Medical Oncologist from National Cancer Institute of Singapore, on the foremost frontier in cancer treatment and practices among various Asian countries.