More clinical trials 'taking place in Asia'

Clinical trials are increasingly being done in Asia instead of Europe.
Clinical trials are increasingly being done in Asia instead of Europe.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

A study found that using the body's immune system instead of chemotherapy led to better survival rates for Asian lung cancer patients who smoke.

Another study found a certain treatment to work better in Asian lung cancer patients.

The results of these two studies will be presented tomorrow at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Asia 2015 congress hosted by Singapore, the first time it is being held in Asia. It started yesterday, and ends on Monday.

The studies reflect how clinical trials are increasingly being done in Asia instead of Europe, said the event's organisers.

FROM ASIA TO EUROPE

Liver cancer is frequently found in Asia, but rarer in Europe. So if this region takes the lead in developing treatment, then that can be taken and applied in Europe.

PROFESSOR CHRISTOPH ZIELINSKI of the Medical University of Vienna

And some differences have been found, leading to improved treatments for Asian cancer patients, said Dr Ravindran Kanesvaran, president of the Singapore Society of Oncology, who sits on the advisory board of ESMO Asia 2015.

He noted that the tumours of European and Asian patients can be different.

"For example, it has been found that some drugs may cause toxicity in Asians, or work better for Asians, as compared to Caucasians," he said.

The results of trials done in Asia can be also applied to countries beyond the continent.

This is one aim of the congress, which brings together 2,772 oncology professionals from 72 countries to promote the international exchange of cancer expertise, to make the best treatments available to patients worldwide.

Professor Christoph Zielinski of the Medical University of Vienna said: "Liver cancer is frequently found in Asia, but rarer in Europe. So, if this region takes the lead in developing treatment, then that can be taken and applied in Europe."

On the opening day of the event yesterday, clinicians from Singapore, South Korea and Europe gathered to discuss how they can work together to conduct trials to improve the treatment for lung cancer patients with particular tumour mutations.

ESMO president Rolf Stahel said that 154 patients, with certain characteristics, from these three regions will be recruited for the trial.

In his opening speech yesterday, President Tony Tan Keng Yam said Singapore has made headway in developing clinical research as well as nurturing clinician scientists.

It has paid off, he said, citing examples such as that of Professor Dario Campana of the National University Health System, who developed new methods of cell-based therapies for a range of cancers, including leukaemia, and breast and gastric cancers.

His findings have resulted in several publications, patents and a start-up company.

Besides developing therapies, Dr Tan stressed that more can be done to develop a holistic approach ranging from cancer prevention and early detection to treatment and follow-up, and palliation.

"Prevention offers the most cost-effective long-term strategy for the control of cancer. At least one-third of all cancer cases are preventable," he said, noting that national screening programmes can detect cancers at earlier stages.

Dr Tan also suggested that new trends that are a threat to public health be constantly monitored, citing the recent ban here on electronic cigarettes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2015, with the headline 'More clinical trials 'taking place in Asia''. Print Edition | Subscribe