This article was first published in SGH newsletter LighterNotes.

Determined to help other breast cancer patients, a family made a generous gift to SGH to set up the Kathy Goh Professorship, in support of the Pathology Academic Clinical Programme, in her memory.

“How can we help the next generation of women to find targeted treatment, so that having breast diseases such as triple negative breast cancer will no longer be a death sentence?”

That was the motivation that prompted the family of the late Mrs Kathy Goh to set up the Kathy Goh Professorship in support of the Pathology Academic Clinical Programme (ACP), in memory of Mrs Goh who passed away in 2018 from the disease. The family founded Meiban Group Pte Ltd, a homegrown plastics and electronics manufacturer.

“’There were so many young girls!’, Mum would say, of her fellow patients at chemotherapy sessions. It was very heart wrenching for her,” said her daughter Ms Carol, CEO of Meiban Group.

This is the first named Professorship for Pathology in SGH and is an endowed fund which will support long term research in breast diseases.

In her search for treatment options, Mrs Goh was introduced to the research work of the Division of Pathology in SGH, to use biomarkers to predict the biological behaviour of breast cancer, which can lead to more targeted treatment and improve the survival rates for patients in Singapore and Asia.

“When mum was first diagnosed, the cancer was at Stage 1. We were of course worried, but thought she would be fine after surgery to remove the tumour. But a few months later, the cancer spread to her lymph nodes and she had to go for radiation therapy. It was only then that we found out she had triple negative breast cancer, which had no cure. It was like receiving a death sentence,” recalled Ms Carol.

The family started seeking alternative opinions, especially treatment options that would also take into consideration Mrs Goh’s strong desire to maintain quality of life. That was when they got to know of SGH Pathology’s work on breast diseases in the Asian population.

At SGH Pathology, the research on breast cancer aims to identify biomarkers that can predict and prognosticate the disease, as well as stratify treatment options. In the field of triple negative breast cancer, the team focuses on how the tumour immune micro-environment can influence disease progression and response to therapy. SGH has a large tissue archive of breast cancers which enables researchers to investigate and compare differences between local patients and those from published studies conducted overseas.

Mrs Goh became interested in the research work that was being carried out by SGH Pathology, and even attended one of its public forums. She went on to support their research work in triple negative breast cancer with a donation.

“We knew that there was little chance of a cure, but we held on to that little bit of hope. It became very important to have options that would help Mum have quality of life. In particular, she wanted to keep her hair, to maintain her self-esteem and dignity,” shared Ms Carol.

“In her final year, as the doses of chemotherapy increased, Mum lost her hair. The cancer spread to her bones, and then her liver. Three years after her first diagnosis, Mum passed away, in September 2018. When Mum passed on, we asked ourselves, what would she have wanted? Mum had a kind and charitable spirit, so we were sure she would want to help others in their cancer journey. That’s when we decided to set up the Professorship, to help other cancer patients,” said Ms Carol.

With the generous gift, the family hopes to boost discovery on breast cancer, the second most common cancer in the world. In Singapore, it is the most common cancer among women, and has been so since 1968 when the Singapore Cancer Registry was formed. “There are many types of cancer, but we want to do more for breast cancer, and for Asian patients in Singapore and Southeast Asia,” Ms Carol explained.

“Our gift is only seed money. It is not enough. By sharing our story, we hope others will donate towards such causes too.”

The endowed Kathy Goh Professorship supports long-term research in breast diseases to improve diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic accuracy through biomarker discovery, leading to better survival for patients.