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Prof N Gopalakrishna Iyer

Prof Iyer Narayanan Gopalakrishna

MBBS (Hons), PhD (Cambridge), FRCS (Gen), FAMS

Head & Senior Consultant

National Cancer Centre Singapore

Specialty: Surgery & Surgical Oncology

Clinical Interest: Head & Neck, Thyroid, Skin & Melanoma, Salivary Glands, Head & Neck (including Melanoma)

Conditions Treated by this Doctor:
Head and Neck Cancer, Hypopharyngeal Cancers, Larynx Cancer, Melanoma, Nasopharyngeal Cancer (Nose Cancer), Oral Cancer, Oropharyngeal Cancers, Salivary Gland Cancer, Skin Cancer, Thyroid Cancer.

Clinical Appointments

  • Head & Senior Consultant Division of Surgery & Surgical Oncology National Cancer Centre SingaporeNational Cancer Centre Singapore
  • Senior Consultant SingHealth Duke-NUS Head and Neck Centre
  • Head of Division of Medical Sciences National Cancer Centre SingaporeNational Cancer Centre Singapore
  • Head & Senior Consultant Head & Neck Surgery Singapore General HospitalSingapore General Hospital

Academic Appointments

  • Principal Investigator
  • Director (Clinical-Scientist Development) Allied and Nursing Education, ACP (Oncology)
  • Adjunct Investigator, Singapore Immunology Network, A*Star
  • Professor


Prof Gopal Iyer graduated top of his medical school class at NUS in 1998, with Honours. He subsequently went on to complete a PhD in molecular carcinogenesis at the University of Cambridge under Prof Carlos Caldas. Trained as a General surgeon at Singapore General Hospital he went on to two separate head and neck surgical fellowships at Sydney Head and Neck Cancer Institute at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Australia and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre (MSKCC), New York, USA. At the end of his fellowship at MSKCC, he was awarded the Michael Burt award for being the best fellow in the surgical division both in terms of operative skill and research output. 

Currently, Prof Gopal Iyer works as a Head and Neck surgeon in National Cancer Centre Singapore and Singapore General Hospital. He is also Senior Consultant of the SingHealth Duke-NUS Head and Neck Centre. Prof Gopal Iyer has extensive experience in the surgical management of head and neck cancers, as well as surgery for benign diseases in the head and neck (including thyroid, salivary gland and skin lesions). He performs complex resections and reconstructions of cancers involving the oral cavity, oropharynx, larynx, hypopharynx, nasopharynx, paranasal sinuses and neck. He is involved in the robotic and endoscopic head and neck surgical program having performed a number of these procedures locally and mentored the first ever robotic thyroidectomy in Australia in Feb 2012.


  • Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (General Surgery) (2008)
  • Fellow of the Academy of Medicine (2008)
  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge (Molecular Carcinogenesis) (2003)
  • Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery with Honors, National University of Singapore (1998)

Professional Appointments and Committee Memberships

  • Head and Neck Cancer Society (Singapore), President (2014)
  • American Head and Neck Society, Member (2010)
  • American Association for Endocrine Surgeons, Member (2009)


  • Distinguished Researcher Award,Singhealth Excellence Awards, 2018
  • National Medical Research Council 2017 Award – Investigator Category, 2017
  • SingHealth Manpower Development Plan (HMDP) Award 2016 – Head & Neck Surgery Management: A multidisciplinary team approach, USA, 2016
  • Visiting Professor, Head & Neck Service, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre, NY, 2015
  • SingHealth Residency in SingHealth Excel (RiSE) 2014 (General Surgery), 2015
  • Outstanding Faculty Award, Residency in SingHealth Excels, 2014
  • National Medical Research Council Clinician Scientist Award, 2014
  • Clinician-Scientist Award, National Medical Research Council, 2013
  • Wong Hock Boon-Society Outstanding Mentor Award, National University of Singapore, 2013
  • Soo Khee Chee Publication Award, SingHealth Foundation, 2013
  • Proctored/supervised first ever robotic thyroidectomy in Australia at Macquarie University Hospital, Sydney on 3rd Feb 2012 
  • SingHealth Publish Medical Research Publication Award, 2012
  • SingHealth Talent Development Fund Medical Research Publication Award, 2011
  • Best presentation, New York Head and Neck Society Annual Meeting (co-first author, presented by Dr Luc Morris), 2011
  • Best poster, American Association of Endocrine Surgeons (co-first author, presented by Dr Luc Morris), 2011
  • Young Investigator Award (Clinical Science) from Singapore General Hospital- supervisor to Brian Tian (medical student/presenter), 2011
  • Michael E Burt award for operative, clinical, teaching and research excellence from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center – awarded to the best fellow overall in the Division of Surgery, 2010
  • Poster of Distinction, American Association of Endocrine Surgeons, 2010
  • Lee Kuan Yew Gold Medal -best graduate throughout course of study for M.B.B.S. Gibbs Gold Medal -first in general proficiency for 4 professional exams Singapore Medical Association Silver Medal -first in final professional examination Ciba-Geigy Prize -first in general proficiency throughout complete course of 5 years of study Second Mekie Book Prize (Surgery) -second best in surgery Nestle Book Prize (Paediatrics) -best in paediatrics clinical clerkship, 1998

Research Interests

  • Identification of novel biomarkers that guide therapeutic decisions, identification of novel therapeutic targets and modification of conventional therapy for head and neck cancers for precision oncology.
  • Biomarker discovery focused on established and state-of the art technologies from next-gen sequencing, immunohistochemistry, flow cytometry to single cell genomics.
  • Functional analyses to modify therapeutic paradigms involve the establishment of patient-derived 2D and 3D cell cultures, stem cell models, as well as modelling the immune micro-environment ex vivo.
  • The overall objective is to translate the knowledge into clinical trials and patient specific outcome in the era of shifting therapeutic paradigms


  • DM Rodrigues-Junior, SS Tan, SK Lim, HS Leong, ME Melendez, CRN Ramos, LS Viana, DSW Tan, , AL Carvalho, NG Iyer, AL Vettore,. Circulating extracellular vesicle-associated TGF modulates response to cytotoxic therapy in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Carcinogenesis. 2019 Aug 22; pii: bgz148. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgz148. [Epub ahead of print]
  • DM Rodrigues-Junior, SS Tan, SK Lim, L de Souza Viana, AL Carvalho, AL Vettore, NG Iyer. High expression of MLANA in the plasma of patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma as a predictor of tumor progression. Head Neck. 2019 May;41(5):1199–1205. doi: 10.1002/hed.25510
  • DM Rodrigues-Junior, SS Tan, L de Souza Viana, AL Carvalho, SK Lim, NG Iyer, AL Vettore. A preliminary investigation of circulating extracellular vesicles and biomarker discovery associated with treatment response in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. BMC Cancer. 2019 Apr 23;19(1):373. doi: 10.1186/s12885-019-5565-9 (co-corresponding author)
  • GGY Lai, TH Lim, J Lim, PJR Liew, XL Kwang, R Nahar, ZW Aung, A Takano, YY Lee, DPX Lau, GS Tan, SH Tan, WL Tan, MK Ang, CK Toh, BS Tan, A Devanand, CW Too, A Gogna, BH Ong, TPT Koh, R Kanesvaran, QS Ng, A Jain, T Rajasekaran, J Yuan, TKH Lim, AST Lim, AM Hillmer, WT Lim, NG Iyer, WL Tam, W Zhai, EH Tan, DSW Tan. Clonal MET Amplification as a Determinant of Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor Resistance in Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor-Mutant Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2019 Apr 10;37(11):876-884. doi: 10.1200/JCO.18.00177.
  • NG Iyer, MLK Chua. Multidisciplinary team meetings - challenges of implementation science. Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology. 2019 Apr;16(4):205-206. doi: 10.1038/s41571-018-0148-2.
  • SL Kong, H Li, JA Tai, ET Courtois, HM Poh, DP Lau, YX Haw, NG Iyer, DSW Tan, S Prabhakar, D Ruff, AM Hillmer. Concurrent Single-Cell RNA and Targeted DNA sequencing on an Automated Platform for Comeasurement of Genomic and Transcriptomic Signatures. Clinical Chemistry. 2019 Feb;65(2):272-281. doi: 10.1373/clinchem.2018.295717.
  • A Sharma, EY Cao, V Kumar, X Zhang, HS Leong, AML Wong, N Ramakrishnan, M Hakimullah, HMV Teo, FT Chong, S Chia, MT Thangavelu, XL Kwang, R Gupta, JR Clark, G Periyasamy, NG Iyer, R DasGupta. Longitudinal single-cell RNA sequencing of patient-derived primary cells reveals drug-induced infidelity in stem-cell hierarchy. Nature Communications. 2018 Nov 22;9(1):4931. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-07261-3. (co-corresponding author)
  • SAK Rasheed, HS Leong, M Lakshmanan, AK Raju, D Dadlani, FT Chong, NB Shannon, R Rajarethinam, T Skanthakumar, EY Tan, JSG Hwang, KH Lim, DSW Tan, P Ceppi, M Wang, V Tergaonkar, PJ Casey, NG Iyer. GNA13 expression promotes drug resistance and tumor-initiating phenotypes in squamous cell cancers. Oncogene. 2018 Mar;37(10):1340-1353. doi: 10.1038/s41388-017-0038-6.
  • WY Chay, LL Kwok, WN Tiong, SS Krisna, KH Lim, NG Iyer, LK Goh, DS Tan. Mutational Aberrations Detected in Mucinous Epithelial Ovarian Cancer of Asian Women. International Journal of Gynecological Cancer. 2018 Mar;28(3):428-436. 
  • DSW Tan, FT Chong, HS Leong, SY Toh, DP Lau, XL Kwang, X Zhang, GM Sundaram, GS Tan, MM Chang, BT Chua, WT Lim, EH Tan, MK Ang, TKH Lim, P Sampath, B Chowbay, AJ Skanderup, R DasGupta, NG Iyer. Long non-coding RNA EGFR-AS1 mediates epidermal growth factor receptor addiction and modulates treatment response in squamous cell carcinoma. Nature Medicine. 2017 Oct;23(10):1167-1175. doi: 10.1038/nm.4401.
  • S Chia, JL Low, X Zhang, XL Kwang, FT Chong, A Sharma, D Bertrand, SY Toh, HS Leong, MT Thangavelu, JSG Hwang, KH Lim, T Skanthakumar, HK Tan, Y Su, S Hui Choo, H Hentze, IBH Tan, A Lezhava, P Tan, DSW Tan, G Periyasamy, JLY Koh, NG Iyer, R DasGupta. Phenotype-driven precision oncology as a guide for clinical decisions one patient at a time. Nature Communications. 2017 Sep 5;8(1):435. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-00451-5. (co-corresponding author)
  • CJ Ong, NB Shannon, S Mueller, SM Lek, X Qiu, FT Chong, K Li, KKN Koh, GCA Tay, T Skanthakumar, JSG Hwang, TK Hon Lim, MK Ang, DSW Tan, NC Tan, HK Tan, KC Soo, NG Iyer. A three gene immunohistochemical panel serves as an adjunct to clinical staging of patients with head and neck cancer. Oncotarget. 2017 Jun 19;8(45):79556-79566. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.18568

Research Trials

1.       Drugging the undruggable- targeting wild type EGFR with exosomal therapeutics National Medical Research Council Clinical Scientist Individual Research Grant (CIRG21jun-0035) for $1,494,200; Feb 2022 to 31 Jan 2025) – currently ongoing 

2.       Precision oncology approach to identification and expansion of tumour-targeting cytotoxic T-lymphocytes in head and neck squamous cell cancer. National Medical Research Council Clinician Scientist Award – Senior Investigator Grant (MOH-000325) for $1,748,900; Jan 2020 to Dec 2024) – currently ongoing 

 3.       Precision immunotherapy for gastric, and head and neck cancer targeting the MARK3 splice variant antigen. National Health Innovation Centre Singapore I2D grant (NHIC-I2D-1912237) for $250,000; Aug 2020- Jul 2021) as CO-I

4.       Next-generation lung cancer clinical trials. National Medical Research Council Large Collaborative grant for $1,130,000; May 2018 – Apr 2023 as theme PI

 5.       The Role of Tumor Heterogeneity in Lymph Node Metastasis in Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma (OSCC): A Precision Medicine Approach (NMRC/CSA-INV/0011/2016 for $1,200,000; Nov 2016 - Oct 2019)