It has been a long-standing tradition that the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) and Four Seasons Hotel Singapore co-organise Run for Hope, an annual running event that raises much-needed awareness and support for cancer research. Not letting the pandemic crush their spirits, the organisers decided to hold this year’s run virtually, from 4 November to 31 December 2020. Funds raised through Run for Hope enable critical life-saving research that help clinicians gain a better understanding of the various cancers and administer the optimal treatment for best patient outcomes.
Ms Hong Qiuyu was only nine years old when she was diagnosed with Gitelman Syndrome, a rare genetic kidney disorder that causes excessive excretion of potassium, magnesium and calcium ions from the kidneys, resulting in low levels of these ions in her blood. At the end of 2016, the 29-year old was diagnosed with another serious illness - stage three colorectal cancer.
Qiuyu struggled to accept the diagnosis and cried for days. However, with care and support from her family, her doctor and nurses at NCCS, she eventually came to terms with her condition and bravely proceeded with cancer treatment.
Qiuyu believed in staying positive to beat her cancer. She underwent surgery to remove part of her large intestine, where the tumours were growing. Thereafter, she went on for chemotherapy treatment. As she was physically too weak to complete all 12 sessions of chemotherapy, her doctor recommended that she go for six sessions. Qiuyu has since completed her treatment and has recovered well.
Further research into Qiuyu’s case
Due to her young age, the doctors suspected that Qiuyu’s cancer was linked to a genetic condition. To better understand the cause of her cancer, Qiuyu’s medical oncologist, Clinical Assistant Professor Jason Chan and his research team studied her genetics and found that Gitelman Syndrome, which is not normally associated with cancer formation, may have contributed to the development of her tumours .
Through gene sequencing, the team discovered a single mutation in Qiuyu’s MUTYH gene. The gene helps to repair damaged DNA and typically, this mutation alone does not usually increase the risk for colorectal cancer. However, combined with the low magnesium environment due to Gitelman Syndrome may have further affected the DNA repair function and possibly leading to cancer. The research findings will be instrumental in the early diagnosis and treatment of patients with similar conditions to Quiyu.
How you can make a difference in the lives of patients like Quiyu
Between 2013 and 2017, more than 71,000 people in Singapore were diagnosed with cancer1 . The threat of cancer is very real with the disease accounting for one in four deaths in Singapore. Like Asst Prof Chan’s research into Quiyu’s condition, clinicians and researchers at NCCS continue to strive for research breakthroughs that will deepen their understanding of the disease and its variants and shape the treatment of patients diagnosed with cancer.
Through Run for Hope, you can now play a part in this life-saving mission and make a difference in the lives of cancer patients and their families. Net proceeds of the run will be directed to the NCCS Cancer Fund.
Sign-up for Run for Hope | Make a gift towards the NCCS Cancer Fund | Start a fundraising campaign
1Source: Singapore Cancer Registry 50th Anniversary Monograph (1968 – 2017)