President Tony Tan: Policies play a vital role in tackling new health threats

ESMO Asia 2015 - Opening Ceremony (1)

President of the Republic of Singapore, Dr. Tony Tan Credit:ESMO

The European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO), the leading professional organisation for medical oncology held its inaugural event in Asia, the ESMO Asia 2015 Congress at Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre in Singapore.

The ESMO Asia 2015 congress that is happening from 18 – 21 December 2015 is a premier scientific and educational platform for oncologists and other stakeholders in cancer care and aims to bridge the gap between researchers, clinicians and patients across disciplines to find the most effective treatment solutions available today.

ESMO President, Prof. Rolf Stahel noted that the inaugural meet in Asia was received with enthusiasm, demonstrated by the fact that over 2,700 delegates have registered to attend from over 72 countries across Asia and worldwide.

Speaking at the inauguration of the ESMO Congress, the Guest-of-Honor, President of the Republic of Singapore, Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam expressed concern over the growing cancer burden in Asia due to ageing population and lifestyle factors such as tobacco use, and increasing rates of obesity. Acknowledging that cancer was one of Singapore’s top killers, he said that the government is investing heavily in biomedical, translational and clinical research, with the aim of creating quality healthcare solutions for cancer patients.

He spoke about the first publicly-funded, made-in-Singapore cancer drug candidate (ETC-159) that advanced into clinical trials. ETC-159 targets a number of cancers including colorectal, ovarian and pancreatic cancers, which are among the top 10 causes of cancer deaths in Singapore. It can minimise the side effects experienced by cancer patients using conventional therapeutics, he said. He also spoke about the innovations happening in National University of Health System (NUHS) and National Cancer Centre Singapore(NCCS) regarding cell-based therapies and immunotherapy for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

He stressed that prevention is still the most cost effective long-term strategy for cancer, as one third of all cancers are preventable. Cancers caused due to tobacco use, heavy alcohol consumption and obesity could be effectively prevented through a combination of public education and health promotion programmes that encourage healthy behaviours and discourage unhealthy habits, he said.

Dr Tan pointed out that there is a need to improve detection at earlier stages of cancer. He mentioned that the Health Promotion Board has introduced national screening programmes under “Screen for Life” to screen for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer that are free or subsided for low-income households, so as to encourage people to go for early cancer screening.

He also stressed that policies play a vital role in tackling the development of new health threats. Singapore, for instance, recently imposed a ban on electronic cigarettes, he told the 2,772 congress delegates.

He concluded by saying that the ESMO congress was an excellent platform for exchanging ideas and learning about innovative and emerging therapies in the treatment and management of cancers. By collaborating and strengthening the partnerships, he hoped that new cancer treatments could be developed that benefit the world.

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