​About 250 patients in Singapore are diagnosed with kidney cancer each year.   Outcomes of surgery and targeted therapy can be unpredictable, even for the most experienced of doctors. This is set to change with a new molecular test kit co-developed by SGH, NCCS and the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN).

The landmark kit is able to predict treatment and survival outcomes in kidney cancer patients based on their tumour profiles.   This is invaluable in deciding the type of treatment the patient should undergo to shrink or slow the growth of the cancer.

Dr Tan Min-Han, IBN Team Leader and Principal Research Scientist and a visiting consultant at NCCS, shared: “As a practising oncologist, I have cared for many patients with kidney cancer. I see the high costs of cancer care, the unpredictable outcomes and occasional futility of even the best available drugs.

“Some patients can be observed for years on end, some benefit from immediate treatment including surgery or targeted therapy, and for some patients, treatment can be futile.   Experience is required in making the right judgment for patients. We hope our assay will play a role in helping that judgment.”

The researchers started an investigation to discover reliable biomarkers that could improve the prognosis, and identify patients who would likely benefit from one type of treatment.   The study was conducted retrospectively with close to 280 tissue samples from SGH Pathology’s tissue archive of patients with clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC), the most common type of kidney cancer.

Dr Tan explained: “Our diagnostic assay successfully classified ccRCC into groups correlating to different survival and treatment outcomes.   This allows patients and doctors to make more educated choices in their treatment options. Additionally, the development of such assays in Singapore demonstrates the highest levels of research, care and expertise that are available to our patients here.”

The kit has since been validated at SGH and NCCS, and reported in European Urology, the world’s top urology journal.