Published on 27 June 2024

    Dr Anand Jeyasekharan and his team envision a world where more cancer patients can be cured.

    “It’s like studying a battlefield… with two invading armies,” Dr Anand Jeyasekharan said when explaining the approach to studying how the body reacts to cancer cells.

    “We are trying to draw [battle] maps of cancer at a high resolution and in high detail in order to understand how to fight it,” he explained.

    The senior consultant in haematology-oncology at the National University Cancer Institute, Singapore (NCIS), was sharing an analogy about the spatial biology approach to cancer, where advanced imaging equipment is used to analyse cancer with high molecular detail. 

    Dr Jeyasekharan has always been intrigued by spatial biology since his PhD days when he worked on microscopic techniques in molecular oncology at the University of Cambridge. Today, he is also an Assistant Professor at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (NUS Medicine).

    “Spatial biology’s ability to dive deep into molecular detail allows us to be more precise in diagnostics, treatment and care,” he added.

    Spatial biology’s ability to dive deep into molecular detail allows us to be more precise in diagnostics, treatment and care. – Dr Anand Jeyasekharan

    Synergy — an essential catalyst for medical progress

    At the National University Health System (NUHS), the conduit between clinical practice (at NCIS) and academia (at NUS Medicine) has opened many opportunities for Dr Jeyasekharan and his team to formulate breakthroughs in research and to bring real solutions into the clinics. 

    He cited the example of a fellow NUS Medicine researcher, A/Prof Edward Chow, who developed a pioneering artificial intelligence (AI) based tool used to test a patient’s sample in the lab with many drug combinations, with the aim of finding out which combination worked best for that patient. This AI approach employing a novel method called quadratic phenotypic optimisation platform (QPOP) is a groundbreaking technique that has transitioned from academic research to practical implementation at the National University Hospital (NUH). This new personalised drug combination prediction method can help those whose lymphomas (blood cancers) have relapsed.

    Why clinical research matters

    “We're never happy with just delivering standard treatment, because standard treatment simply isn't good enough...some people get cured, some people don't — we’re trying to understand what we can do to improve the chances of curing more people,” said Dr Jeyasekharan.

    To do so, the answer lies in clinical research, which spans everything from clinical trials to analysing past data to understand and improve healthcare delivery. With this, patients can have better outcomes with new treatments and better care pathways.

    “I would go one step further to say that in a disease like cancer — and some day, for other diseases as well — clinical trials are a key part of clinical care." Dr Jeyasekharan noted that NCIS currently sees between 80 to 100 active trials at a time and globally, patients on clinical trials live better and live longer than patients who aren’t. He added that besides having access to new treatments, they are also monitored much more closely, and always have a lot more personalised care. 

    With various clinical trials, clinicians like Dr Jeyasekharan and his team hopes to improve the predictability, precision, and personalisation of cancer treatments. 

    Want to find out more about Dr Jeyasekharan’s work and other clinical research projects at NUHS? Join local and international healthcare professionals at the upcoming NUHS Scientific & Innovation Summit happening on 3 August 2024.

    In consultation with Dr Anand Jeyasekharan, Senior Consultant, Department of Haematology-Oncology, NCIS, and Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, NUS Medicine.

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