Few words exist that strike as much distress in our hearts as the word cancer. In Asia, the fight is made even more difficult with the prevalence of cancers specific to the region. Unfortunately, the preponderance of such cancers to Asian populations has led to a lack of information in mainstream medical literature, most of which are still Western-centric. However, one Singaporean doctor is looking to change all that, with the help of Tanoto Foundation.
Fighting Cancer through Research
Associate Professor Lim Soon Thye is the most recent recipient of a Tanoto Foundation Professorship. Currently Senior Consultant and Head of the Division of Medical Oncology at National Cancer Centre Singapore and Assistant Dean at Duke-NUS Medical School, Assoc. Prof Lim was conferred the Tanoto Foundation Professorship for Medical Oncology in 2016. This award will boost his research in cancer, and specifically, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
With Asians accounting for over half the incidence of cancer, it is a disease that Tanoto Foundation has taken a deep interest in. As Belinda Tanoto, member of Tanoto Foundation’s Board of Trustees said, “Most of us know someone with cancer, or have lost someone to this deadly disease. Through the professorship, we want to do our part to catalyse breakthroughs in cancer research, particularly in cancers that affect Asians.”
Assoc. Prof. Lim’s research is particularly timely in this regard. Existing medical literature on cancers associated with viral infections is thin, and signals a gap that needs to be filled. One specific type of cancer Assoc. Prof. Lim specialises in is NK/T-cell lymphoma, which although in Caucasians is more common in Asians. In that regard, he co-founded the Asian Lymphoma Study Group, which involves over 500 patients from China and Singapore. The results, unsurprisingly, have significantly increased our understanding of what has been an overlooked aspect of cancer literature, and exposed a genetic basis to the NK/T-cell lymphoma, changing how we view cancer as a disease.
Knowing Who We Fight For
Ultimately, Assoc. Prof. Lim’s work, and Tanoto Foundation’s objectives are rooted in a desire to improve the lives of people suffering from cancer.
As Belinda Tanoto suggests, “Studies suggest that outcomes for cancer patients in developing regions are poorer than those in developed ones. At Tanoto Foundation, we believe that it shouldn’t be so. Cancer patients everywhere should get the same access to the same quality of care.”
Assoc. Prof. Lim offers similar sentiments, “Patients respond to treatments differently, some treatments just don’t work for a local patient. Traditional methods like chemotherapy, act like a bomb – the normal cells get killed as well. We found that these treatments don’t work, so we bring these unmet needs into our research question.”
Founded by Indonesian entrepreneur and philanthropist Sukanto Tanoto, Tanoto Foundation’s financial support provides scientists and clinicians with the flexibility to find new ways to create greater impact.
As Assoc. Prof. Lim says, “Tanoto Foundation allows you more discretion to be innovative, to do more experimental things – there is more continuity. But at the same time, because the money comes from Tanoto Foundation, we are kept accountable. Mr. Tanoto is always looking for impact, how we can impact society and the world.”