NCCS Launches Humphrey Oei Institute Of Cancer Research To Embrace And Strengthen Its Research Programmes

Thursday, 19 April 2007

  • New Institute has been established with $20 million donation from Mrs Mavis Khoo-Oei, Chairman Goodwood Group of Hotels
  • Government gives matching grant to Institute
  • Sir John Skehel, one of the world’s leading virologist, delivers Distinguished Lecture titled, “The Origins of Pandemic Influenza”

    Singapore, 19 April 2007 - The National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) launched the Humphrey Oei Institute of Cancer Research (HOICR) today, with the Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Lim Hng Kiang, as the Guest-of-Honour.

    The Institute has been established with an endowment of $20 million from Mrs Mavis Khoo-Oei, in memory of her late husband Mr Humphrey Oei. To-date $12 million have been donated with a matching dollar-for-dollar grant from the Ministry of Health. In recognition of this contribution, NCCS has established the Humphrey Oei Institute of Cancer Research, and henceforth all its research programmes will come under this institute. Minister Lim and Mrs Khoo-Oei, who is chairman of the Goodwood Group of Hotels, jointly unveiled a bronze sculpture of the late Mr Oei to commemorate the event.

    NCCS Director Prof Soo Khee Chee said: “We are deeply encouraged by this generous donation, which will be matched dollar for dollar by the government. Putting all our research divisions under HOICR will strengthen our organization by having a common identity. We want to court the best brains locally and from around the world to work with NCCS as we are the national institutional home for cancer experts. Our scientists have been receiving international recognition for their work, winning several accolades and awards in the process. However, for NCCS the true winner will be the day when we see our research work being translated from the bench to the bedside, to cure our cancer patients by giving them not just quality but also affordable health care.”

    Mrs Khoo-Oei, in explaining her reasons for supporting cancer research, said: "In recent years, cancer prevalence has increased, especially in Singapore. Over the last three years, cancer has been the top killer and much research needs to be done to tackle cancer as the top killer in Singapore.

    “He (the late Mr Humphrey Oei) suffered during his time because of cancer. In my view, much can be done to help Singaporeans battle this number one killer and research paves the way for better treatment and recovery. It is my hope that through such a donation, the spirit of giving and helping those in need continues even after his death. I look forward to like-minded Singaporeans coming forth to support this cause."

    With this launch, three research divisions in the NCCS will come under the fold of the Institute, namely:

  • Division of Medical Sciences
  • Division of Clinical Trials & Epidemiological Sciences
  • Division of Cellular and Molecular Research

    All the medical scientists and researchers will work under HOICR, which comes under the purview of NCCS. They will continue with their current research work in the various areas, besides organizing the annual Distinguished Lecture Series. This means NCCS’ research work will come under the umbrella of HOICR, giving them one common identity.

    The Institute will enable NCCS to take its research work to a higher plane. As an institution, which houses the largest number of oncologists in Singapore, it can create the research culture as well as improve links between the academic and the professional communities, and facilitate more opportunities for funding of its research programmes, said Prof Soo.

    Distinguished Lecture Series
    The lecture series was first held in November 2006, with Dr Sydney Brenner, Nobel Laureate Medicine 2002, Chairman, Biomedical Research Council, A*STAR, Senior Distinguished Fellow, Crick-Jacobs Centre, Salk Institute, delivering the first lecture.

    In conjunction with the launch of HOICR, the 2nd Distinguished Lecture titled, “The Origins of Pandemic Influenza” was delivered by Sir John Skehel, one of the world's leading virologists. Sir John’s most famous contribution in his field of specialty has given the medical community a better understanding of the pandemic influenza virus outbreak in 1918 that claimed more than 20 million lives, and it has provided new insights into the pandemic potential of the H5N1 influenza virus. His lecture was delivered at the NCCS Lecture Theatre. The lecture is particularly relevant in today’s context given the concerns with the possibility of a bird flu pandemic.

    The objective of these lectures is to give the scientific community in Singapore an opportunity to hear from some of the world’s top scientists on their discoveries in research. It will also enhance NCCS’ efforts to contribute towards generating discussions and interest among young Singaporeans in the field of medical research.

    International collaboration
    The NCCS has been collaborating with many international bodies to promote an exchange of ideas and scientific research on various types of cancer. In Feb 2007, it signed an agreement with Michigan-based Van Andel Research Institute (VARI). This agreement would help to marry the expertise of doctors and researchers across the borders through a three-year Translational Research Programme, which focuses on the biology behind varying drug responses in Asian versus non-Asian patients with specific types of cancer.

    In May 2006, NCCS signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate in biomedical research with two premier research centres in India, namely, the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology and Regional Cancer Centre both based in Thiruvananthapuram, India. The Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology is the premier national centre of excellence in biomedical research in India. The Regional Cancer Centre from Thiruvananthapuram is the largest cancer centre in South India seeing the largest number of cancer cases. It is hoped that this strategic move will enhance research into head and neck cancers significantly. The incidence of mouth and larynx cancers is among the top four cancers that affect Singaporean Indian men. In India, it is the number one cancer. This research would significantly improve insight and treatment of head and neck cancer patients.

    Prof Soo said NCCS would look for more collaboration with key overseas institutions in its relentless search to bring to the patients here the best available knowledge on cancer cure and cancer prevention.