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Oncologist melds research for targeted treatment

26 July 2012

Mr Viswa Sadasivan (left), Chairman of the U@live organising committee and Prof Wong at the U@live forum

Sharing the special moments of his cancer patients' lives has kept Professor John Wong Eu-Li, Isabel Chan Professor in Medical Sciences and NUS Vice Provost (Academic Medicine), going as a medical oncologist-haematologist over the years.

Speaking at this month's edition of U@live, the Director of the National University Cancer Institute Singapore still remembers how he spent Christmas, New Year and Lunar New Year fighting for the life of a young 15-year-old patient. Now 28 and all grown up, Joyce is fully recovered, happily married and the proud mother of a baby girl.

Besides treating cancer, Prof Wong also conducts research to better understand the disease. His interests lie in the development of new drugs and treatment strategies. Offering a fresh perspective on cancer, he was among the first group to show that ethnicity is a major predictor of the condition. He gave the example of lung cancer and explained how it "behaved" differently in Western and Asian patients. The knowledge paves the way for more targeted and effective therapies for different patients.

Currently the Deputy Chief Executive of the National University Health System, Prof Wong plays an active role in the development of Biomedical Sciences, a key pillar of Singapore's economy. He believes in building up the country's capabilities and expertise in facing health-related challenges. Addressing the concern of an ageing population, Prof Wong said that "be it dementia, stroke, obesity or lung cancer, Singapore has to solve its own issues".

Early in his life, the renowned oncologist wanted to choose a profession which was "useful, intellectually challenging and offered employability". After reviewing his career options, he decided to pursue medicine and earned his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) at NUS in 1981. He furthered his study in internal medicine to specialise in haematology and medical oncology, with accreditation from the American Board of Internal Medicine.

Towards the end of the forum, Prof Wong answered questions which included the training of local doctors, the essence of a good doctor as well as Singapore's cancer research scene.

U@live is a monthly event featuring outstanding members of the university community who have been indefatigable in championing causes that make a difference to the world. Spearheaded by NUS alumni and the Office of Alumni Relations, the forum is also webcast live to the student population on campus.