The National University Cancer Institute, Singapore (NCIS) has come a long way since the first ambulatory oncology centre was set up in Singapore at the National University Hospital in September 1988. Prior to that, cancer patients did not have a dedicated centre to receive chemotherapy. Then housed at the dentistry wing of NUH's Main Building, the NUH Oncology Centre soon became the model for other chemotherapy centres in Singapore to emulate.
The Cancer Centre moved to NUH's Kent Ridge Wing in 1996 and another related specialist centre, the Radiotherapy Centre, was opened in 1999. These two centres then formed The Cancer Institute (TCI) one year later, which grew from strength to strength.
Over the years, the Ministry of Health (MOH) noted that the number of cancer patients being treated in Singapore had increased and that a second centre offering tertiary care was warranted. Already a centre of excellence in its own right, TCI would be renamed the National University Cancer Institute, Singapore (NCIS) in 2008 and assume the responsibilities of this important second national centre for cancer at the Kent Ridge campus.
With the NCIS, patients in Singapore now have more choices for cancer care.
Today, NCIS boasts substantial capabilities and facilities. It brings together the expertise of the departments of Haematology-Oncology, Radiation Oncology, the divisions of Paediatric Oncology, Gynaecological Oncology and Surgical Oncology as well as Oncology Nursing and Pharmacy Oncology.
For the past several years, NCIS as its predecessor, TCI, was the recipient of several research grants, notably from A*STAR, the National Medical Research Council, the Singapore Cancer Society and the Terry Fox Run Cancer Grant.
NCIS' expertise in cancer was recognised through several coveted awards to its medical staff in the past few years. Since the inception of the National Medical Research Council's Clinician Scientist Award in 2004, several clinician-scientists from NCIS have won this prestigious award.
The recipients were:
Dr Goh Boon Cher, 2005
Dr Lee Soo Chin, 2006
Dr Yong Wei Peng, 2007
Associate Professor Chng Wee Joo, 2008
Associate Professor Allen Yeoh Eng Juh, 2005 & 2008
For their work, Dr Goh Boon Cher, who is also the Adjunct Associate Professor at the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore and his team were selected by a major pharmaceutical company to conduct a "first-in-human" clinical trial for an experimental cancer drug for advanced stage cancer in 2007.
Dr Lee Soo Chin received the Clinician Scientist Award from the National Medical Research Council in 2006 for her work on developing predictive biomolecular indicators of the effectiveness of chemotherapy in the treatment of breast cancer.
Dr Yong Wei Peng is a member of the NUS-NUH team under the leadership of Associate Professor Yeoh Khay Guan to receive the prestigious five-year Translational Clinical Research Grant in 2007 for their work to optimise treatment for stomach cancer patients with drugs tailored to the molecular biology of each patient's unique condition.
Associate Professor Chng Wee Joo was also honoured with the 2007 Celgene Future Leaders in Haematology Award. This as well as the Clinician Scientist Award recognised Associate Professor Chng's work on understanding the genetics and molecular abnormalities in multiple myeloma, a type of bone marrow cancer.
Associate Professor Allen Yeoh and his colleagues are continuing their work in childhood leukaemia, to better tailor treatments to each patient based on their individual genetic makeup.
At the institutional level, NCIS clinician-scientists are regular recipients of the National Healthcare Group (NHG) Researcher Investigator Scientist Enabler Grants. Past awardees include Dr Ross Soo, Dr Wong Chiung Ing, Dr Tan Sing Huang, Dr Alvin Wong and Dr Chin Tan Min.
In terms of infrastructure, NCIS currently has 4,200 square metres of floor space for outpatient clinics, chemotherapy treatment areas and inpatient wards but more can be done for NCIS to provide comprehensive care to patients or to allow medical professionals adequate space for training. Recognising this, space allocated to NCIS will be substantially increased in the next few years.
To improve the capacity of NCIS to handle the projected increase in patient load, immediate plans include expanding its space and facilities in the Kent Ridge Wing of the National University Hospital (NUH) to accommodate more consultation rooms and have a centralised chemotherapy area for both full-paying and subsidised patients.
While this is underway, a new 14-storey landmark building will be erected to house NCIS and other facilities. The building will provide more space for specialist outpatient clinics, operating theatres, research areas for clinical trials and teaching rooms to train healthcare providers. Both patients and staff will find access to this new building convenient as it will be built right above the Kent Ridge MRT Station of the Circle Line.
NCIS will cover 13,000 square metres spread over three floors. This new building will also house advanced linear accelerators to provide radiation therapy for patients. It will allow comprehensive delivery of care literally under one roof as many specialist, diagnostic and treatment facilities will be conveniently co-located. This translates into quicker diagnosis and treatment for patients, resulting in better outcomes.
For example, there will be a clinic for blood disorders for both adult and child patients. Another clinic is the Breast Centre that provides a one-stop centre for the screening, diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer cases.
To round off these capabilities, there will also be space for rehabilitation and physiotherapy rooms, palliative care, pain management as well as complementary therapies like acupuncture for complete and holistic care.
This new building underscores the Government's and our commitment to NCIS' roles of caring for its patients, advancing knowledge through research and training healthcare professionals for the battle against cancer.
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