New cancer centre aims to improve diagnosis

The Advanced Medicine Imaging Centre said its machines also produce higher-quality images, which can better detect and characterise lesions such as tumours.
The Advanced Medicine Imaging Centre said its machines also produce higher-quality images, which can better detect and characterise lesions such as tumours. ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

A new cancer centre at science hub Biopolis promises faster and clearer imaging scans, with lower radiation exposure.

The Advanced Medicine Imaging (AMI) Centre, which opened yesterday, aims to improve the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, the leading cause of death in Singapore.

The centre said its new PET/CT imaging machines are capable of performing scans at one-tenth the typical time required, and with less exposure to radiation. PET scans typically take up to 60 minutes.

The centre said its machines also produce higher-quality images, which can better detect and characterise lesions such as tumours.

This allows for the early detection of even small tumours, resulting in treatment being administered more quickly with fewer invasive procedures, said the centre.

It added that this is the first time this technology - the Philips Vereos PET/CT scanners - is being brought into the Asia-Pacific.

The centre is run by the Singapore Institute of Advanced Medicine Holdings (SAM) and technology firm Royal Philips, in partnership with firms like Varian Medical Systems and IBA Worldwide.

Mr Henk de Jong, Philips' chief of international markets, said the centre's capabilities would enable better prevention and early detection, which are key to cancer treatment.

Dr Djeng Shih Kien, founder and chairman of SAM, said "despite treatment, and the ever-increasing cost of treatment, the outcome did not really improve the quality of life". He added: "We set out to look for a sustainable healthcare model that is backed by solid medical technology that can fulfil our mission of providing early and accurate diagnosis and to institute appropriate treatment, with the objective of getting better outcomes and better quality of life at reasonable cost."

The AMI Centre is Phase 1 of a larger planned cancer complex, which aims to serve as a hub for cutting-edge medical treatment and scientific research and development, as well as medical training. When all three phases are completed by end-2019, the complex will take up approximately 35,000 sq ft of space in Biopolis, in Buona Vista.

SAM invested $100 million into the cancer complex, said Dr Djeng.

Said Mr de Jong: "It's a one-stop patient-centric hub where patients across the region can come for the best possible care; not just with technology, but the best possible medical staff."

Asia accounts for half of the global incidence of cancer, and regional cases are expected to increase from 6.1 million in 2008 to 10.6 million in 2030. In Singapore alone, it accounted for 29.6 per cent of deaths in 2016. The lifetime risk for developing cancer is approximately one for every four to five people.

Other technologies at the AMI Centre include a new spectral CT machine, which provides better analysis of tissue and is able to remove metal implants from images for clearer visuals. The centre also has a new MRI machine, which uses lighting, video and sound to calm patients, and cuts the time required for a typical MRI scan by almost three-quarters, from the usual 30 minutes.

Artificial intelligence will also be used for analysis and other applications, said Dr Djeng and Mr de Jong in a joint interview.

Dr Djeng also said the use of technology to increase productivity and efficiency could actually drive down healthcare costs. "What we are going to do is adapt technology to our advantage and at the same time make sure it is affordable."

Additional treatment technologies, like proton beam therapies, will be progressively made available across the second and third phases.


Some of AMI Centre's cutting-edge equipment


ST PHOTOS: JONATHAN CHOO

PHILIPS VEREOS PET/CT SCANNER

• Touted by the centre as world's first and only fully digital PET/CT systems; first implementation in Asia-Pacific

• Uses Digital Photon Counting technology to improve detection and characterisation of lesions, allowing them to be detected earlier

• Allows scan at half the typical PET dose to reduce radiation exposure

• Offers improved contrast and resolution in imaging

• Takes one-tenth the time of a typical scan

PHILIPS IQON SPECTRAL COMPUTED TOMOGRAPHY (CT)

• Imaging system shows a clearer picture of different tissue layers and types

• Able to remove metal implants from images to get a clearer visual

• Lower dose than typical CT scans

PHILIPS INGENIA 3T MRI

• Equipped with customisable light, video and sound to calm patients

• Reduces a typical MRI from 30 minutes to eight minutes

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2018, with the headline 'New cancer centre aims to improve diagnosis'. Print Edition | Subscribe