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Prof Iyer Narayanan Gopalakrishna

Dr Narayanan Gopalkrishna Iyer from National Cancer Centre Singapore

Prof Iyer Narayanan Gopalakrishna

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

Head & Senior Consultant

National Cancer Centre Singapore

Specialty: Surgical Oncology

Sub-specialties: Head & Neck, Thyroid, Skin & Melanoma, Salivary Glands

Conditions Treated by this Doctor:
Head and Neck Cancer, Nasopharynx, Skin & Melanoma and Thyroid Surgery (Robotic, Endoscopic and Scarless), Trans-Oral Robotic Surgery (TORS).

Clinical Appointments

  • Head & Senior Consultant Division of 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


Dr 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, Dr Gopal Iyer works as a head and neck surgeon in National Cancer Centre and Singapore General Hospital. He is also Senior Consultant of the SingHealth Duke-NUS Head and Neck Centre. Dr Gopal 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.


  • University of Cambridge, PhD, 2003
  • National University of Singapore, MBBS(Hons), 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
  • Academy of Medicine, Fellow, 2008
  • Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (General Surgery) Fellow, 2008


  • 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

  • Basic science: 
    - Biology of head and neck cancer stem cells: response to DNA damage, drug resistance and plasticity 
  • Translational research:
    - Molecular profiling and genomic sequencing of young tongue cancers, recurrent oral cancer
    - Modulation of tyrosine kinase inhibitor response in head and neck cancers
    - Prognostic biomarkers in head and neck and nasopharyngeal cancers
    - Novel drug targets and pathways in head and neck cancer
    - Mouse carcinogenesis model in tongue cancers 
  • Clinical research:
     - Trial co-ordinator (translational research) for multi-centre phase III trial comparing efficacy of chemoRT versus chemoRT plus nimotuximab in post-operative patients with high-risk head and neck cancers IHN01 trial)
    - Radiation induced cancers after treatment for nasopharyngeal carcinoma


  • 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.

Research Trials

  • Precision oncology approach to identification and expansion of tumor-targeting cytotoxic T-lymphocytesin head and neck squamous cell cancer. Principal Investigator, NMRC (Jan 2020 – Dec 2024) The role of tumour heterogeneity in lymph node metastasis in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC): A precision medicine approach. Principal Investigator, NMRC (Oct 2016 – Oct 2019) 
  • GNA13 Induction of stemness and resistance to chemo-and radiotherapy in breast and head and neck cancers . Co- Investigator, NMRC (Mar 2016 – Mar 2018) 
  • Real-time modeling of tumour progression, metastasis and chemo/radiosusceptibility of oral squamous cell carcinomas (OSCCs), Principal Investigator, NMRC (Feb 2016 –Feb 2019) 
  • Establishing in vitro and in vivo models for screening therapeutic targets in adenoid cystic carcinomas. Principal Investigator, NCCRF (Nov 2016 - Oct 2017) 
  • Extracellular vesicle present in plasma samples of patients with head and neck cancers as potential biomarkers or radiotherapy resistance, Principal Investigator (Aug 2014 – Jul 2016) 
  • Genetic determinants of carcinoma of the tongue in the young: Validation of targets using cell line models. Principal Investigator, NMRC (Dec 2012 – Sep 2016 ) 
  • Mechanisms of resistance to EGFR TKI through genomic and transcriptomic interrogation of relevant preclinical and clinical models. Principal Investigator, SingHealth Foundation Grant (Jun 2013-Dec 2014)