In a bid to collect more data on liver cancer, the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) has inked a deal with two partners to set up a regional cancer registry over the next few years.
This will involve monitoring some 2,000 liver cancer patients from seven to eight countries - including Singapore - and finding out which treatments work best.
Experts will also look at issues such as when patients are diagnosed, and if cost is an issue when patients choose between different forms of treatment.
The centre will work with the Singapore Clinical Research Institute (SCRI) and healthcare technology firm IMS Health Asia. They signed a memorandum of understanding on Friday at the Asia-Pacific Hepatocellular Carcinoma Trials Group Scientific Forum.
"(Liver cancer) is... very relevant to us," said Associate Professor Teoh Yee Long, chief executive of SCRI. More than 80 per cent of liver cancer cases are in the Asia-Pacific, he added. In Singapore, it is the fourth-most common cancer among men. It is also among the top five most common cancer deaths for both genders.
The first phase of the project will involve countries such as Japan, China and South Korea, and could be extended as more partners come on board.
"Even setting up a single registry in a single country is difficult, so this is a big challenge," Prof Teoh said.
The available data on liver cancer varies from country to country, said Professor Pierce Chow, a senior consultant surgeon at NCCS. The registry will help to overcome this, he said, and provide a big-picture overview of the disease and what happens to those who have it. The hope is that their findings will be able to inform government policy here and abroad.
For example, Prof Chow said, the study could find data suggesting that screening for liver cancer early - though costly - works out to be cheaper overall than picking up the disease at a late stage.
"Having this kind of information allows policy agencies to allocate their resources accordingly in a way that benefits patients the most," he said.
At Friday's forum, NCCS also signed a separate agreement with local bioanalytics firm InvitroCue.
They will be working on a study of 100 patients from at least five countries to try and better understand cancer disease patterns and how they relate to an individual person's genetic data.