A cancer procedure that could lead to patients being prescribed more accurate drug treatments with fewer side effects is being tested in Singapore.
Tumour grafting involves extracting a patient's live tumour and growing it in mice lacking an immune system. The live tumour samples in the mice are then tested against drugs or drug combinations.
Based on the results, medical professionals here may soon be able to customise cancer treatments for patients.
The top three tumour type engraftments being carried out here are for gastrointestinal, breast and sarcoma (flesh) cancers.
While the procedure is new in Singapore, it has led to successful drug treatments on patients in the US, Britain, Canada and Israel.
The complete procedure - from tumour extraction to release of test results - takes around four to six months and costs about $20,000 per patient.
The procedure is done by Champions TumorGraft, a new partnership between the Parkway Cancer Centre (PCC) and Champions Oncology, a US-based developer of oncology drugs.
According to Champions, the procedure can achieve a 94 per cent genetic correlation between the grafted tumour in mice and the original tumour in patients.
Dr David Sidransky, founder and chairman of Champions Oncology, noted that in successful cases there is a 90 per cent correlation between a mice sample's response to a treatment and a patient's response to the same treatment.
"By personalising treatments to fit how each tumour reacts, there is a higher possibility of better patient outcomes," said Dr Sidransky, who was speaking at Wednesday's partnership launch at the Sheraton Towers Hotel.
Dr Ang Peng Tiam, the PCC's medical director, said the procedure will save "patients the possible side effects of treatments given to them in a trial-and-error fashion".
Since its introduction here in December, tumour grafting has been carried out successfully on 33 patients.