• Profs Patrick Tan & Steven Rozen from Duke-NUS and Prof Teh Bin Tean from NCCS received the President's Science Award at PSTA 2015 yesterday
  • Their prolific work in genomics of Asian cancers sheds light on this still little-known area and helps advance better diagnosis and cure

 Asian cancers are vast unmet clinical needs that demand urgent scientific and medical solutions. Many cancers in Asia differ from those in Western countries, and little is known about their underlying  genetics.  

Professors Patrick Tan and Steven Rozen of Duke-NUS, and Prof Teh Bin Tean of National Cancer Centre Singapore have been pursuing the discovery of new genes and molecular pathways in four Asian cancers (stomach, biliary tract, urinary tract and breast fibroepithelial tumours).
For their contributions to the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of these Asia cancers, the Tan-Teh-Rozen team was awarded the President’s Science Award at this year’s PSTA – the highest honours bestowed on exceptional research scientists and engineers in Singapore.
Over the past eight years, the team has employed a “team-science” approach in their research journey, which has yielded numerous scientific breakthroughs. They identified new genetic alterations, investigated the relationships between these alterations and environmental factors, and analysed how these contribute to disease.
The team’s key discoveries, which have been published in high-impact journals, include:
  • Discovery of specific molecular signatures associated with exposure to aristolochic acid, a carcinogen found in some herbal remedies, and its role in liver and bladder cancer
  • Identification of genes mutated in breast fibroepithelial tumors, including the MED12 gene that is mutated in 60% of breast fibroadenomas, a condition found in 10% of women worldwide
  • Demonstration of the role of chromatin modifier genes such as ARID1A and BAP1 in stomach and biliary tract cancers
Their accomplishments in the field of Asian cancer genomics have also earned them international recognition –  the team has been invited to lead the International Cancer Genome Consortium’s biliary tract cancers and T-cell lymphomas programmes.

The translational impact of their work has also attracted close to $4 million in industry funding for collaborative research projects with pharmaceutical companies such as Roche, GSK, Bayer, Novartis and Principia Biopharma.

With the number of cancer cases projected to rise tremendously over the next two decades, the need to discover new genetic targets for better diagnosis and cure has become ever more salient. And the Tan-Teh-Rozen team have proven they can ensure Singapore is a front-runner in the field.