New lab to provide customised cancer treatment

The Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) has launched a new laboratory that will help provide customised, cutting-edge treatment for cancer patients.

The lab - set up in partnership with local healthcare bioanalytic firm Invitrocue - will develop models of cancerous tumours using cells from patients, and utilise tech tools like artificial intelligence and data mining to trawl through genetic information found in cell models.

It will then identify novel biomarkers - molecules or genes linked to the illness - to measure drug resistance and responses to treatment.

The lab's efforts will help provide a real-time status update for the treatment a patient is undergoing in a clinic, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) and Invitrocue said in a statement yesterday. GIS comes under A*Star.

The lab, called the GIS-IVQ Joint Laboratory, will be housed at the Genome building in Biopolis, and will carry out research into head and neck cancer, colorectal cancer, liver cancer, and triple-negative breast cancer, which makes up 10 per cent of all breast cancers in Singapore.

It will cost about $10 million to operate over the next few years.

GIS said it decided to focus on these types of cancer because they are common in Singapore and South-east Asia.

Their biomarkers, which will help treat patients, also have not been identified.

The lab will be the first in the Asia-Pacific region to focus on the integration of phenotypic data - observable characteristics of a cancer cell, for instance, whether it dies - and genomic data, such as the different genes in the cancer cells.

It will employ up to 20 personnel in scientific and technical roles, and expects to fill, over the next two years, another 18 new positions that require cell biology and bioengineering expertise.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2017, with the headline 'New lab to provide customised cancer treatment'. Print Edition | Subscribe