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Good morning everybody. Thank you for inviting me to join you at the ESMO Asia 2022 Congress.

2.             Cancer is a leading cause of death, accounting for nearly one in six deaths in 2020, worldwide, and Asia accounted for more than half (about 58%) of that global cancer mortality rate.

3.             The same is true for us here in Singapore. From 2015 to 2019, more than 28,000 Singapore residents died of cancer, with a further 78,000 diagnosed with cancer.

4.             As our population ages, the burden of disease from cancer will only increase. 

5.             Two key pillars to reducing this burden of disease from cancer are prevention and early detection. About 30% to 50% of cancers may be prevented through risk factor avoidance and the implementation of evidence-based preventive strategies.

6.             In Singapore, we encourage healthier lifestyles and timely health screening. Over the past decade, some of these efforts have begun to pay off. We have seen improvements in health habits, such as lower smoking prevalence rates, and improved total physical activity.

7.             The Ministry of Health (MOH) will further emphasize preventive care. We have a major health reform we’ve just launched, we’ve named it HealthierSG. We want every Singapore resident to develop a long-term relationship with a family physician, not just for the episodic care when you are sick, but regular preventive care through this trusted long-term relationship between a single resident and a single family physician. This will drive personalised health plans, a more integrated preventive health experience, provide access to national physical activity programmes, social prescriptions, diet logging and smoking cessation programmes. We hope that through this stronger patient-doctor relationship, built over time, will contribute towards more effective delivery of preventive healthcare.

8.             Screening and early diagnosis are important to enable the early identification of cancers, increasing the chance of cure. We have, for some time had significant subsidies for screening for breast, cervical and colorectal cancers. With this launch of Healthier SG, MOH will be offering free screening for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer to eligible patients. These are the cancers which have disproportionate burden of disease in our population.

9.             We are in parallel committed to investing in and supporting cancer related research. We have identified cancer as one of the priority areas for research and have established the Singapore Translational Cancer Consortium (STCC) to coordinate cancer research and translational capabilities across Singapore.

10.          One example of the research that we are supporting is on liver cancer, which is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in males here in Singapore. $25 million has been committed to support a renewed five-year programme led by Professor Pierce Chow from the National Cancer Centre Singapore, along with other Principal Investigators from the Duke-NUS Medical School, the Genome Institute of Singapore, the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology and the National University of Singapore (NUS). The programme, called Precision Medicine in Liver Cancer Across An Asia-Pacific Network (PLANet 2.0), aims to detect biomarkers so that specific therapeutic strategies can be formulated. The programme involves two clinical studies that deal with immunotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy for hepatocellular carcinoma – one of the most common types of liver cancer.

11.          Another example, Singapore announced in May this year our aim to sequence and analyse the complete set of genes of 100,000 Singaporeans between the ages of 30 and 80. Set up as a partnership between the NTU Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, NUS, Singapore Eye Research Institute, and the National Heart Centre Singapore, Project SG100K is a longitudinal cohort study that has the power to transform healthcare. By analysing genetic factors together with biology, lifestyle, environment and social determinants on health and wellbeing, we will better understand cancer, diabetes, hypertension and many other chronic illnesses, and identify new ways to prevent and treat them. SG100K is expected to become one of Asia’s leading reference genome databases, especially since in Singapore our ethnic diversity represents more than 80% of Asia’s total ethnic diversity.

12.          To pull together our various strategies of cancer care, MOH formed the National Advisory Committee on Cancer Care (NACC). Collaboration between care providers, access to comprehensive information and the provision of support resources will go a long way towards guiding patients on their cancer care journey. Further development of community and home-based cancer care through these types of collaboration will also contribute towards reducing emergency department visits and unexpected hospitalisations.

13.          A patient’s journey should be more than the sum of various care points from acute care to chronic care and palliative care. It needs to be a holistic pathway that optimises quality of life in a meaningful way.

14.          Our fight with cancer requires a strategic and collaborative approach on many levels. We need to coordinate strategies around prevention, treatment, and research to achieve affordable and high-quality patient-centred care. The ESMO Asia Congress today provides a platform for such collaborative opportunities. We learn from the best in the world, and we hope it gives you the opportunities to network and collaborate with each other here in Singapore. I wish all of you a fruitful meeting ahead.

15.          Thank you.

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