Channel NewsAsia

Made in Singapore: A test kit to better diagnose and treat kidney cancer

The molecular test kit aims to aid doctors better deal with clear cell renal carcinoma, a common affliction suffered by Singaporean men.

SINGAPORE: A test kit that can help predict the treatment and survival outcomes in kidney cancer patients has been created, in a collaboration between researchers and doctors at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS).

In a joint statement issued on Friday (Aug 1), IBN Executive Director Professor Jackie Y Ying said: "By combining our expertise in molecular diagnostics and cancer research, we have developed the first genetic test to help doctors prescribe the appropriate treatment for kidney cancer patients based on their tumour profile."

In creating the test kit, the team conducted a retrospective study with tissue samples collected from close to 280 clear cell renal carcinoma (ccRCC) patients who underwent surgery at SGH between 1999 and 2012.

Kidney cancer is among the 10 most frequent cancers affecting men in Singapore, according to The Singapore Cancer Registry for 2009 to 2013. Of the kidney cancer patients, the most common type of cancer is ccRCC, according to the statement.

It added that extensive molecular characterisation of ccRCC by the research team and other researchers worldwide in recent studies suggested the existence of specific subtypes with different survival outcomes.

HELPING DOCTORS MAKE BETTER JUDGEMENT CALLS FOR PATIENTS

"The researchers therefore set out to discover reliable biomarkers that could improve the prognostic prediction, and identify patients who would be likely to benefit from one type of treatment," according to the statement.

The research team thus designed its practical assay, or investigative procedure, for studying and diagnosing real-world tumour samples from ccRCC patients. This is to distinguish patients into groups of different survival and treatment outcomes, it said.

Dr Min-Han Tan, IBN Team Leader and Principal Research Scientist and visiting consultant at the Division of Medical Oncology at NCCS, said: "Our diagnostic assay successfully classified ccRCC into groups correlating to different survival and treatment outcomes. This allows patients and doctors to make more educated choices in their treatment options."

Dr Tan added that with 250 new patients diagnosed with kidney cancer in Singapore each year, diagnoses and treatment outcomes "can be very different". This is why he said he hopes the team's assay will play a role in helping doctors with making the right judgement for patients. 

The breakthrough was recently reported in European Urology, the world’s top urology journal. The molecular test has been validated at the SGH and NCCS.

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