Precision medicine key to preventing disease developing later in life, Singapore News & Top Stories

SINGAPORE – An individual’s genes can determine the amount of risk he has of developing life-threatening conditions such as heart disease and in turn allows for early intervention.

This is central to the precision medicine programme here, said Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, the chief health scientist from the Ministry of Health and executive director at the Healthcare Transformation Office.

Prof Tan told a webinar on Wednesday (Nov 25) that the programme looks at the genome sequences of participants to help determine the cumulative risks of different diseases based on their genes.

This can be particularly useful for some complaints like premature heart disease, added Prof Tan, who was joined on the webinar panel by Prudential chief executive Dennis Tan and Health Promotion Board (HPB) CEO Zee Yoong Kang.

The event, which covered a broad range of health topics from diabetes and vaccines to strategies on how to stay healthy, is part of The Straits Times Reset 2021 webinar series. It was sponsored by Prudential and moderated by ST senior health correspondent Salma Khalik.

Prof Tan told the webinar that a condition known as familial hypercholesterolemia is caused when a person has a gene that results in high cholesterol levels at a much younger age. If that gene is present, the individual will have up to 20 times higher risk of heart disease – and at an earlier age.

“And then if we identify somebody, we can also test the family. So these preventive strategies will be part of precision health,” he added.

The HPB is working to make use of the clinical, behavioural and digital data as well as genetic data – with patient consent – to identify those at higher risk to allow for early intervention.

Prudential’s Mr Tan said Singaporeans need not be worried about being part of the programme or be concerned if they find out their genome sequences. Having “bad” genes will not make it harder for them to secure insurance policies, he assured.

Privacy is really important, Mr Tan said, adding that “we (Prudential) are very, very careful about such things”.

He said individuals ultimately have to take charge of their own health and should find out more. He said: “Preventive healthcare is all about them being in the driver’s seat, and going through the whole process of early detection, health screening and all.

“So I think as insurers, we will definitely support them.”

Ms Khalik noted that if a person learns that he is at a high risk of getting a certain disease, it will give him the time and opportunity to act before the ailment takes hold.

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Singapore MMA show test case for return of sports fans

Singapore’s pilot initiative to carry out rapid coronavirus testing to allow fans into a One Championship MMA show could show the way for other countries to host sports events during the pandemic, organisers said.

Sports have been slowly resuming worldwide after a months-long shutdown, but many events have gone ahead with no spectators, to reduce infection risks.

Up to 250 mask-wearing fans on Friday will attend the mixed martial arts card, “One: Inside the Matrix”, at an indoor stadium — the city state’s first sports event with an audience for months.

The screenings are part of a government pilot programme under which people will be tested for Covid-19 before large-scale gatherings, and comes as Singapore prepares to further ease restrictions as its outbreak slows.

Fans will have to get negative results in antigen tests, which can identify at least 80 percent of infected people and provide results in about 15 minutes.

“This is a first for Singapore and if we are successful, will pave the way for others to follow as we safely return to some normalcy,” said Teh Hua Fung, group president of One Championship, Asia’s biggest MMA promotion.

“They can’t be isolating, waiting (a long time) for the results beforehand.”

Spectators will also sit apart from one another to reduce the risk of infection, and no food and drinks will be on sale, with fans instead given goody bags.

“People are dying to watch, even if they have to socially distance,” Teh said. 

“It’s going to be a different experience… But it’s a start.”

Ninety-eight people, including 42 athletes, have been flown into the city state for the event featuring six fights. Fifteen fights will also be pre-recorded for release at a later date.

Two men from the United States and Russia assisting the fighters tested positive for the virus on Tuesday, but the results were determined to be from previous infections, organisers said.

They were tested again on Thursday, and will only be allowed to participate if the latest tests show negative results.

One Championship was unable to hold matches for almost four months because of the pandemic, but it resumed in China in June and staged its first international event in Singapore this month, without fans.

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Philips and Singapore General Hospital (SGH) to establish Digital and Computational Pathology Center of Excellence

Digital pathology at Singapore General Hospital

October 23, 2020

  • SGH aims to develop the first fully digitized histopathology laboratory in ASEAN by expanding the use of Philips’ IntelliSite Pathology Solution, potentially increasing the productivity of existing staff by 7%

  • Philips Singapore and SGH will optimize digital pathology use to facilitate research in Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Amsterdam, the Netherlands – Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHIA), a global leader in health technology, today announced a collaboration with Singapore General Hospital (SGH) to establish the Singapore General Hospital Digital and Computational Pathology Center of Excellence. The SGH Center of Excellence aims to advance pathology practice by implementing a fully digital histopathology workflow and deploying Artificial Intelligence (AI) to increase productivity and enhance patient care.

Located within SGH’s Division of Pathology, one of the largest pathology laboratories in ASEAN, the Center of Excellence aims to establish ASEAN’s first fully digitized histopathology laboratory by expanding its digital pathology capabilities for primary diagnosis, training, and R&D with the Philips IntelliSite Pathology Solution. Both SGH and Philips will also work closely on other diverse areas, including streamlining of the histopathology laboratory’s digital workflow.

As in other parts of the world, the demand for cancer diagnosis in Singapore is increasing while pathologists remain scarce. A recent study, conducted by SGH and Philips, revealed that full digitization of SGH’s histopathology laboratory will improve efficiency. It has the potential to enable time savings in the pathology workflow and allow the pathology department to increase its capacity by another 7% whilst retaining the same number of employees.

Through optimization of digital pathology at SGH, the hospital will be able to further its research in AI. AI-based tools can aid pathologists in diagnosing diseases such as cancer – the leading cause of mortality in Singapore [1] – and empower them to face the current challenges in pathology. The increasing number of cancer cases, an aging population, and rapid advances in personalized medicine have resulted in significant complexity of pathological diagnostics, adding to the workload of pathologists. AI will allow pathologists to focus more on challenging tasks and unusual cases that require a higher degree of expertise and skills.

“As healthcare becomes more complex and demanding, digitization has become a key enabler for the Hospital to provide better care for our patients and to be more efficient,” said Prof. Kenneth Kwek, Chief Executive Officer at SGH. “Digital pathology is an example of that. Our partnership with companies such as Philips, with its clinical and technical know-how, is important in helping us achieve our goal.”

“Digital pathology enhances the quality and efficiency of a histopathology laboratory,” said Diederik Zeven, General Manager, Health Systems, Philips ASEAN Pacific. “We are committed to partnering with leading healthcare institutions like Singapore General Hospital to bring the latest in precision diagnosis and AI capabilities to help them augment clinical quality, improving patient outcomes and thereby reducing the cost of care.”

Philips IntelliSite Pathology Solution enables pathologists to review and interpret digital images of surgical pathology

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