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Research Highlights

Black Puzzle Pieces

What are some issues with rare cancers?

  • Difficulty in diagnosis

  • Lack of treatment guidelines

  • Poor access to approved therapies

  • Fewer clinical trial access

  • Inadequate funding for research

  • Worse patient outcomes

Twin Babies _edited.jpg

The story of identical twins with a rare blood lymphoproliferative disorder - Multicentric Castleman Disease (coming soon)


What do we know about Rare Cancers? How many are there? How do we diagnose them? Why do they occur at all? What  treatment options are available? How do we study rare cancers? Is there even a need to study them... ?

Rare cancers are actually NOT that rare! There are approximately 200 types of rare cancers, including sarcomas, melanomas, lymphomas and many others. When combined together, they account for 1 in 4 (!!) of all cancer diagnoses and mortality. Sadly, patients diagnosed with a rare cancer have less than 50% chance to survive beyond 5 years. Furthermore, they tend to occur in children and young adults.




The STARLIGHT Initiative is a translational research program aiming to comprehensively investigate the molecular and immune pathobiology of rare cancers, with particular interest in profiling their clinically-actionable target landscape for precision therapy. By “Steering Translational Rare Cancer Research into the Light”, the initiative hopes to increase the molecular understanding of rare cancers and eventually improve clinical outcomes of this group of diseases with unmet clinical need.






















Rare cancers represent a major healthcare problem worldwide. Due to the low incidence of individual subtypes, rare cancers are often neglected, resulting in a lack of diagnostic precision and therapeutic standards to guide optimal management. The challenges that Singapore face in the management of rare cancers mirror the global unmet needs. In order to solve these problems, we have set key priority areas as part of the initiative, including:

  1. Integrating national efforts in rare cancer research

  2. Igniting interests of next generation clinician scientists

  3. Initiating translational research programs on rare cancers

  4. Inventing diagnostic and predictive toolkits

  5. Involvement of patient advocacy and support groups

  6. Industry partnership

  7. Interacting with international rare cancer groups

  8. Implementing precision oncology in the clinic



  1. Greenlee et al. Pub Health Report 2010

  2. Komatsubara and Carvajal Lancet Onco 2016

  3. Gatta et al. Eur J Cancer 2011

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